Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and some food industry critics have strongly rapped NARC's Children Advertising Review Unit, suggesting it isn't working because children are seeing too many ads for junk food on TV. They have demanded the ad industry not only look at the appropriateness of what's actually shown or said in food ads aimed at children, but also whether certain food products are appropriately advertised to them.
Mr. Guthrie, who was an executive for the Magazine Publishers of America, Petersen Publishing and Channel One before heading NARC, said that the controversy prompted him to stay in the job through July, despite a personal desire to move to North Carolina from New York.
Mr. Guthrie added that by July, Jodi Bernstein, former director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, will have completed a comprehensive review of existing CARU guidelines. The review will include an examination of three new CARU policies task forces had been looking at: ad industry policies about kid-directed product placement; online gaming; and third-party licensing.
Mr. Guthrie today cited success over the five years in increasing support for NARC and staffing.
"We have raised revenue, visibility and got our compliance [with self-review decisions] up over 95%," he said. He also said that the NARC had doubled its case load and staff in the five years.
In a statement, NARC Chair Nancy Wiese, Xerox Corp.'s director of worldwide marketing, called Mr. Guthrie's departure "a huge loss" for NARC and the industry.
Industry under scrutiny
"His ability to work with all constituencies when our industry is under scrutiny has been exemplary," she said, adding that NARC will announce in the near future its plans for selecting a successor.
The president-CEO role at NARC was re-established five years ago after ad groups complained that elimination of the post -- a cost-saving measure by the Council of Better Business Bureaus -- short-changed the ad industry, lessening the visibility of its self-regulation initiative as criticism of advertising on Capitol Hill and elsewhere mounted.