Teyssier, president, European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA), a European body aimed at regulating advertisements, was in India recently. In an event organised by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), Teyssier spoke on the phenomenon of self-regulation in advertising across the world. He began with an anecdote. "Once, an advertiser is believed to have said that advertising is 15 per cent commission and 85 per cent confusion. Must have been a P&G client," quipped Teyssier merrily, well aware of P&G India chairman Bharat Patel's presence in the audience.
Getting down to serious business, Teyssier said that self-regulation and/or co-regulation is the way forward for the ad industry globally, instead of complicated legislative procedures. "In Europe, we have no legislative regulation in this regard," he clarified.
Teyssier upheld self-regulation - in which the industry actively polices itself according to agreed standards, both national and international - on the grounds that it was a demonstration of the ad industry's maturity and sense of responsibility. "With the new global ICC code released in September 2006, we can expect mature advertising that takes care of current issues such as the environment," he added.
He went on to cite the two different kinds of self-regulation organisations (SROs) in Europe. In France, the BVP (Bureau for Truth in Advertising) focuses on exercising standards before the transmission of the advertisement (there is a systematic pre-clearance of all ads before they appear), while in the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) controls ads only after their transmission, through consumer complaints, which are placed before a credible jury. In Europe, there is the EASA, which is a body that comprises SROs as well as the advertising industries of the various European countries. Some of its efforts include combating rogue traders and scams, particularly direct marketing scams, through Euro Ad Alerts, a system which gives an advance warning about such scams on the EASA website and sends out emails to consumer groups and the media.
Teyssier pointed out that for any self-regulation system to work, advertisers, agencies and the media have to work in tandem. "Only then can we achieve responsible advertising through best practices for the benefit of consumers and the business," he explained. Teyssier said alcohol advertising, food advertising, green advertising, advertising to children and gender stereotyping are some of the common concern points for SROs across the globe. In addition to these, Teyssier hinted at the formation of separate committees by the EASA to tackle the new media challenge (perhaps a newer regime for online advertising). "We will soon have roundtable talks on this," he said.
Teyssier seemed to favour self-regulation over co-regulation. "While co-regulation is nice, it should in no way imply co-management of our systems," he said. That is to say that while advertisers and ad agencies can be consulted on procedures and codes, the exact drafting of the codes should ultimately be done by the respective regulatory authorities.
In summary, Teyssier said that advertising is under tremendous pressure at the moment and becoming a scapegoat for societal issues. "At the same time, the ad industry is constantly being challenged to prove that its self-regulation is transparent, effective, independent and open to all stakeholders," he said, hinting that collaboration between all the involved parties is the only answer.