Trade & investment

Self-regulation and advertising: Surviving the global challenges ahead

  • 4 February 2009

Last month, just ahead of the US administration change, marketers and advertisers from around the world gathered in Washington, D.C. to participate in a roundtable on the future of self-regulation, held by ICC.

Plenary speaker Deborah Platt Majoras, Vice President and General Counsel for Procter & Gamble and former US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman, shared perspectives on what lies ahead for the advertising industry, given the current financial crisis, and warned against the call for broad regulatory reforms. She urged business to communicate the benefits of advertising in encouraging competitiveness and to stress the cost-effectiveness of self-regulation at a time where government coffers are already heavily burdened.

She praised the Children’s Food and Beverage Initiative, which uses marketing and advertising to foster good nutrition for children, as a positive undertaking by the food sector. “It is a great example where self-regulation can do something that government cannot do, not just because of constitutional limitations but also in terms of effectiveness,” Ms Platt Majoras said.

Speakers from AT&T, Google, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser, FTC, the US and Dutch self-regulatory bodies and a range of legal experts contributed to panel discussions on:

Chairing the roundtable, John Manfredi, who also serves as Chair of the ICC Commission on Marketing and Advertising, cautioned that the erosion of trust, caused by the current crisis, has serious implications for the marketing world.

“When trust and confidence are gone, marketing and marketers suffer. Without trust, it’s impossible to establish or retain a relationship with consumers…and without trust bad things happen,” he said. “Not only in the marketplace, but also in the arena of public policy and governance.”

The ICC Commission on Marketing and Advertising met the day after the roundtable and explored practical steps for the commission to take in 2009 to help restore trust and effectiveness in self-regulation.

The roundtable and commission meetings, hosted by the law firm Winston & Strawn and ICC’s American affiliate, the United States Council for International Business, attracted participants from 11 countries, including China, Brazil, Mexico, Belgium, Sweden and Turkey.

ICC has been a major rule-setter for international advertising since the 1930s, when the first ICC code on advertising practice was issued. Since then, it has extended the ICC self-regulatory framework on many occasions to assist companies in marketing their products responsibly.  A revised and expanded consolidated ICC Code on Marketing and Advertising Practice was issued in 2006, following in the long-established tradition of promoting high ethical standards for advertisers, advertising agencies and the media around the world.