International advertising code revised

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Recognizing the evolving definition of marketing, the advertising industry is about to revise the international code of practice that determines the basis for self-regulation country by country.

The International Chamber of Commerce hopes to have what will be the eighth revision in place by the end of June. The latest revision will combine individual policies for sales promotion, media advertising and environmental advertising into a single code and also deal with questions raised about new forms of communication ranging from product placement to news releases.

"What we have is a basic code first put out in 1937, with separate codes for sales promotion, electronic media, environmental, sponsorship, marketing research added that have some repetition, redundancy and some inconsistency," said John Manfredi, senior VP-external relations for Procter & Gamble's Gillette unit who is also chairman of the ICC Commission on Marketing and Advertising. "We want to simplify and streamline it and make it more understandable and more accessible."

While the role of the ICC code varies-some countries incorporate it word-for-word into consumer laws while others use it to guide self-regulatory organizations-the code leaves enforcement mechanisms up to local self-regulatory organizations.

Mr. Manfredi said the idea isn't just to stitch the existing various sections of the code together, but to create a code that makes it easier to understand how to deal with newer forms of advertising and marketing communications. Public-relations activities will also be part of the new code.

What the code will say about those new areas hasn't entirely been determined.

Gayle Crozier, food-issues manager for Nestle, said good self-regulation can avoid problems for advertising. "Where there is self-regulatory action, maybe legislation can be avoided. Self-regulation is much more adaptable, more rapid and closer to the problem," she said. While all advertising codes and consumer laws provide that advertising must be truthful, the ICC code can provide further guidance and also ensure something very important to advertisers. "What we would like is to make an equal playing field."

Davis Hodge, manager-marketing and advertising policy for the chamber, said the current revision began nearly two years ago. "We will be expanding the definition of advertising, marketing communication, to better reflect what constitutes ads," he said.

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