Coane provided oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee session on MSP Richard Simpson’s Alcohol Bill, alongside Sarah Hanratty from the Portman Group, Guy Parker from the ASA and a representative from the Salvation Army. The Bill includes proposals that would restrict alcohol advertising at outdoor sites, cultural or sporting events and within shops.
In his evidence, Coane acknowledged that Scottish alcohol brands and their agencies are fully aware of the need to promote the Drink Responsibly message and of the self-regulatory codes which protect consumers from inappropriate ads, including those regarding alcohol.
He made the case for the role of advertising as a force for good in Scotland, stating: advertising agencies consistently create effective campaigns to promote social good; advertising is a vital driver of the creative industries; advertising is also integral to Scotland’s leisure and tourism sector.
He also stated his objections to three specific restrictions within The Bill: a ban on advertising near schools could effectively be a ban on alcohol advertising in towns and cities across Scotland; the proposal to restrict advertising at sporting and cultural events is impractical; the proposal to make these restrictions a criminal offence is unreasonable and disproportionate.
Said Brian Coane: “We – the advertising industry – ask that any proposal seeking to restrict advertising of any product or service should be made in consideration of whether it would achieve the purposes intended, in this case – protecting the health of children - but also in consideration of the damaging impact such restrictions are likely to have on the advertising and marketing communications industry and the wider implications for Scotland as a creative nation.”
1) Advertising agencies consistently create effective campaigns to promote social good
There is a correlation between strong creativity in business and social campaign success. For example, the percentage of patients diagnosed with lung cancer at the earliest stage has increased by 24.7 per cent since the launch of the Scottish Government’s Detect Cancer Early programme. Major public awareness campaigns, created by IPA member agencies, have been a central part of the DCE programme.
This proves how vital a strong and vibrant advertising industry in Scotland is in achieving the social and economic goals of the Government.
2) Advertising is a vital driver of the creative industries
The creative industries contribute £5.8 billion to the Scottish economy and employ 68,000 people in Scotland – this is more than the number that work in the oil industry. Advertising is a vital sector with the creative industries, providing the strategic and creative thinking that builds brands and changes behaviour. It also commissions the production and distribution of creative strategies and ideas, and benefits illustrators, photographers and filmmakers.
3) Advertising is integral to Scotland’s leisure and tourism sector
The success of Scotland’s sporting and entertainment sector, with events such as T in the Park and venues including the SSE Hydro, benefit from the expertise of Scotland’s advertising agencies. At the same time the agencies in Scotland benefit from being able to develop their expertise through the money spent by alcohol brands in support events such as these. These proposed restrictions would have a negative impact on the mutual benefit both receive.
Objections to three specific restrictions in The Bill:
a) Aban on advertising near schools could effectively be a ban on alcohol advertising in towns and cities across Scotland
The wide definition in both locations (schools, nurseries, crèches, outdoor children’s play areas) and formats of advertising would have a dramatic effect on the outdoor advertising industry. The industry would also question the practicality. It is not clear if information is available on all of these premises in Scotland and their precise locations.
b) The proposal to restrict advertising at sporting and cultural events is impractical
For example, if a cultural event had an alcohol brand as a sponsor the nature of the event means that the percentage of under-18s attending varies from children’s shows to adult events. The new legislation would effectively make it impossible for an alcohol brand to sponsor such an event.
The Portman code stipulates a 75% aggregate threshold for over 18s and requires brands to make all reasonable endeavours to ensure audience make up which we would support as a more effective solution.
c) The proposal to make these restrictions a criminal offence is unreasonable and disproportionate
That each of the proposed restrictions would amount to a criminal offence for which liability would be imposed not just on the businesses, but on ‘relevant individuals’ within the businesses seems wholly unreasonable. It would appear to be anti-alcohol rather than designed to be anti-alcohol misuse.
The Bill: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/88187.aspx
Last updated 03/11/2015