Banning advertising is counter-productive
The same argument against alcohol marketing can be used for sugar
VIVID images of Reg Lascaris and the late John Sinclair huddled at a table pondering over pieces of paper scattered all around them come back to haunt me.
I can clearly see and hear them arguing. Suave Reg insisting on persuasion while Jolly John adamantly wanted to go out with guns blazing but both united in their resolve to dissuade the South African government from imposing draconian legislation against tobacco advertising.
I was the young creative director co-opted to work with this team of industry leaders who were mandated by their peers to lead the lobby. After hours, days and months of sweat and toil with other advertising and marketing giants, the great presentation was ready.
That was a presentation which, in my book, was so powerful it would have persuaded the devil himself to extinguish the fires of hell and turn his fork into a hoe.
The essence of the industry lobby was quite simple. Let tobacco advertising be subjected to a stringent regulatory regime instead of an outright ban.
Tobacco advertising was banned. The supporters of this move went into victory celebration mode and only missed out on the traditional bus parade.
The harm done by the illicit contraband cigarettes from unscrupulous sources has today become much more than a source of concern not just to the health of the nation but to the fiscus as well.
Déjà vu! The din around the banning of alcohol advertising is rising in a crescendo. Statistics are bandied about and manipulated at will as the crusade hits the Mother City in preparation for another victory celebration. In the tradition of Reg and John, the advertisers and their agencies huddle in an attempt to call for a regulatory system as opposed to a draconian ban.
Our effort to persuade the government to hamba kahle is now much more sophisticated and matured.
Hindsight has taught us that we were not entirely right and neither were the victors.
The vexing concern is, have South Africans sufficiently learnt from that experience in order to fashion an efficacious solution to the present-day challenge?
Methinks, nay, but as a patriot I steadfastly hold on to the notion that robust and continued engagement on this issue must be encouraged with the aim of finding a balanced resolution together.
Indulge me as I digress and posit a futuristic scenario or two. We are presently bombarded with research results purporting that cellphones emit harmful radiation that causes or can cause cancer.
Is it likely that pretty soon the call to ban advertising for cellphones will be on the national agenda?
By the same token we are acutely aware of the carnage on our roads, and by extension motor car advertising will have to be banned at some stage.
“Aw c’mon don’t be ridiculous,” I hear you say. Okay, maybe I am being that, but think about it, is it not conceivable that we might just be headed that way?
Frankly, the damage caused by alcohol abuse cannot be ignored.
That we must find a remedy is imperative, but an outright ban will achieve little more than tokenism.
If the problem is alcohol then the solution is simple. Declare the brewing, distillation, making, selling and consumption of alcohol illegal.
If alcohol is not the problem and it is legally and legitimately manufactured, marketed and sold, then it must have a legitimate share of voice.
Abuse of a product by consumers cannot be the reason for silencing it.
As I cast my eyes into the future, I can see marketers and their agencies huddled together amid tomes of written material trying to avoid an outright ban on sodium chloride advertising because salt contributes to the high incidence of cardio-vascular disease.
And watch out sugar, you just might be the next target as strident voices call for the eradication of this sweet, silent partner to diabetes. uyawuzw’ umoya! Nkomo is chairman, Draftfcb South Africa