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LEGAL BRIEFS ITALY TO COORDINATE $100 MILLION GOVERNMENT BUDGET; ASC SLAMS BRAKES ON AUSTRALIAN TOYOTA ADS; HYUNDAI RIDES ROUGHSHOD OVER U.K. RIVALS

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ROME-The Italian parliament will consider legislation this spring for scandal-plagued Italy to create a department that would coordinate social campaigns and oversee agency pitches for the government's $100 million ad budget.

The initiative is expected to pass, but it's not clear when it would become effective nor how the department would be organized and staffed. Each government ministry now oversees its own budget. The new independent body would act as a liaison between the state and the professional advertising community, said Stefano Rolando, the bill's author and head of Italy's department for information and media.

Agencies most likely to be affected are Young & Rubicam, Publicis, Armando Testa, Ayer, BSB Italia, McCann-Erickson Italia and Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, all of which handle the bulk of government ad accounts.

Italy's largest government advertiser is the Health Ministry, followed by the prime minister's cabinet overseeing ads for social issues such as traffic safety.

SYDNEY-Three Toyota TV spots created by Saatchi & Saatchi were ordered to be modified or withdrawn by the Advertising Standards Council last month following public complaints.

One Toyota Celica ad showed a fisherman reeling in a silver Celica resembling a shark. The car speeds down a long jetty, does a U-turn and is joined by a second shark-like Celica racing back at the fisherman, who jumps into the sea.

The Council, the industry self-regulatory body, found the ad violated its guidelines for "dangerous behavior or illegal or unsafe road usage practices." Colin Harcourt, ASC executive officer, said the ad was "overly aggressive and totally inappropriate." But Saatchi defended the ad as a "Jaws spoof" and said it did not represent the behavior of Celica or other sportscar drivers.

The ASC said another Landcruiser ad falsely implied its satellite navigation option was standard, and that a Tarago ad incorrectly suggested safety airbags were available for all three models.

Bob Miller, Toyota general manager-marketing, said he accepted the "constructive criticism," but lamented the cost of revising the campaign.

LONDON-Korean carmaker Hyundai is expected to slip past a comparative ad law here because the rivals it knocks in new print ads-Rover, Nissan and Ford-haven't complained to the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority.

The U.K. print ads from Leagas Delaney jab the competition for its short warranties, pricey extras and lavish ads.

Instead of complaining to ASA, Rover has written Hyundai demanding the ads not be repeated, and Nissan has received a letter from Hyundai's U.K. distributor-also a dealer of Nissan's-apologizing for the ad and promising to withdraw it.

The ad that provoked Rover reads, "These days, even a kettle comes with a longer warranty than a Rover 400," referring to Rover's one-year warranty. In another ad, Hyundai spotlighted Nissan's expensive extras: "You can't charge $1,018 for heated door mirrors. You can with a Nissan." Hyundai also parodies Ford's slogan and its fancy advertising with the tagline, "Everything Ford does is paid for by you."

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