'Morality Vote' Numbers Worry Advertising Execs

Some Fret About New Conservatism in Public Taste

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- In the immediate wake of President Bush's victory and John Kerry's defeat, national advertising groups expressed concern that a fifth of U.S. voters listed "moral values" as one of their most important reasons for voting.

Photo: AP
Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush as they announced their election day victory.

Wire services reported that nationwide election day polls found that 22% of U.S. voters cited "moral values" as their primary concern in voting. By comparison, only 19% named terrorism as their top concern.

Dampen edgy fare
Some advertising industry authorities are worried that a continuing turn toward more conservative public values would further dampen media and advertising companies' use of edgy creative material -- or the kind that is most effective for cutting through clutter and gaining attention.

Others see the potential for stronger public support for government curbs on certain kinds of media or advertising content.

"The big thing to watch is moral values. There is going to be greater scrutiny on decency, and that could play into advertising and what is indecency in programming and advertising," said Dick O'Brien, executive vice president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Hot topic in Congress
"It could be quite a hot topic for next [congressional] session and spill over to things like alcohol advertising and programming content," he said.

Dan Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers, said he is worried that issues such as childhood obesity and obscenity cross partisan lines and that members of Congress may be more willing to consider proposals to limit violence in programming or to fine media companies for obscenity violations.

"The saliency of social moral issues, indecency and violence could be high agenda items," he said.

Mr. Jaffe also said the increased GOP control of the Senate could lessen a stalemate there, making it more likely Congress could pass legislation aimed at curbing certain kinds of advertising.

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