I have been on a panel this evening with Jon Alexander and others at an event at the Royal Society of Arts on advertising.
Jon is the co-author with Guy Shrubsole (pictured here) of the report Think of me as evil? opening the debate on ethics in advertising which is published by the Public Interest Research Centre and WWF. This is the best written report on any social cause for many a year and raises all the right questions around the place and role of advertising in society.
The report has helped to achieve what it wanted, which is to stir debate – including from the chairman of the Advertising Association, Tim Lefroy; from Futerra, the sustainability marketing agency Ed Gillespie; and with David Jones, head of comms agency Havas.
When I had to deal with the advertising industry, in the lead-up to the book Consumer Kids, I came across my fair share of cat-stroking evil apparatchiks outraged that complaints about marketing to children represented an attack on their freedom to advertise. It is genuinely great news that the industry has moved on.
We have some welcome, practical steps forward, such as banning the recruitment of children to sell to other children (something Agnes and I exposed in the book) and extending the reach of the Advertising Standards Association online (again, something we championed in an open letter to the industry). We now have an open and intelligent debate.