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International marketers in March hope to shape European Union legislation that will enable them to take a more pan-European approach to marketing.

Their input will come in the form of a questionnaire from the European Commission to hundreds of people involved in EU marketing. The document, being sent to marketers, ad agencies, PR firms, sales promotion groups, the media, self-regulation authorities and consumer associations, raises their hopes for influencing a draft policy scheduled for the end of this year.

The idea is to develop general legislation that will help the ad industry operate in a single European market that still faces conflicting rules in some markets.

Until recently, an initiative of this kind would have terrified marketers fearful of ad industry over-regulation. But a more pro-business attitude at the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, finds marketers optimistic.

"The top-down nanny state attitude at the Commission has gone," explained Ronald Beatson, director general of the European Association of Advertising Agencies in Brussels. "There's a realization that people don't want to be told what to do."

The Commission will get an earful from Peter Waterman, VP-corporate affairs at Hasbro International, London. Varying rules on toy advertising across the EU and among countries slated to become EU members have proved a marketing nightmare for the U.S. toy giant.

"The big problems are the barriers to trade created by bans on advertising to children in different countries.*.*.It makes it impossible for marketers to trade effectively in those countries," said Mr. Waterman.

Hasbro has faced marketing hassles in the Flemish part of Belgium, Sweden, Norway and Greece where TV advertising to children is limited if not banned. "Advertising on TV is effectively the only way to reach children," said Mr. Waterman. "They don't read magazines or newspapers. Comics don't work. If you're trying to penetrate a market competing with indigeneous companies which have been there, if you can't advertise on TV it's a real barrier to entry."

Peter Mitchell, strategic affairs director at Guinness, London, is optimistic the legislation will deal with advertising restrictions on alcohol in France, Sweden and parts of Spain.

"The Commission has been very open and has gone to a tremendous amount of trouble to make themselves thoroughly informed about the industry," he said.

The questionnaire, delayed since last October, is being compiled by the British Market Research Bureau and will ask what form of marketing communications the respondent uses in which countries and how that marketing mix is helped or hindered by the internal European market.

"I think it's good news for advertisers," said a Commission official working in DG15, the directorate-general responsible for commercial communications.

After analyzing responses to the questionnaire, the Commission will produce a green paper-a draft policy document-on commercial communications by the end of this year. Then a directive will be written based on the EU's policy.

Said Mr. Beatson: "[The green paper] is incredibly important. What happens now will determine the future of marketing from the year 2000 onwards."

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