Finally, something to cheer up adland: the hunting season is about to reopen. The advertising regulator has just announced it is seeking to abolish 9pm watershed restrictions on TV condom advertising; and may also permit pro-abortion ads for the first time.
Result: hysterical consternation among Catholic and anti-abortion groups. But what do admen care about that? This new development can only mean one thing: some frenzied pitching – at last! – all in the worthy cause of cutting teenage pregnancies.
The controversy has been stirred by an outline proposal from the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP), which have decided to review the current advertising rules. We can now expect almost round-the-clock condom advertising – the exception being when programmes are aimed at children under 10. So not during Horrid Henry but straight after GMTV. It’s all part of a review of advertising codes which is being put out for public consultation. The scrutiny closes on July 19th.
Currently condoms cannot be advertised on Channel 4 before 7pm and on other channels before 9pm. But the soaring growth of teenage pregnancies has prompted calls for change. (Hands up, by the way, anyone who can remember a condom ad on telly, even after the watershed? I thought so: the manufacturers clearly don’t see TV advertising as the way forward.)
Not surprisingly, there has been more outraged opposition than support for these controversial proposals. More particularly for the one that would allow abortion clinics to advertise on TV. The ever-entertaining Tory MP and blogger Nadine Dorries has already registered her disgust. It’s ”just plain sick”, she says.
“I am quite sure that any adverts will depict smiling pretty nurses, gleaming reception areas and leafy car parks,” she writes in her blog. She goes on to complain that the ads will not highlight the risks involved. She’s pretty ill-informed on the technicalities, as it happens.
Opening up new categories to advertising might, however, do something to restore confidence in an industry trussed by new legislation and battered by lobby groups calling for ever more stringent curbs. Worthy cause or not.