Ban­ning ad­ver­tis­ing is counter-pro­duc­tive

The same ar­gu­ment against al­co­hol mar­ket­ing can be used for su­gar

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - MEDIA& MARKETING - NK­WENKWE NKOMO

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


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