At the April meeting, leaders from 18 ad-industry associations discussed some of the common issues that confront advertisers as governments seek to police their national advertising marketplaces to see that consumers and competitors are not harmed by abusive practices.
Information was shared on how best to get the ad industry's message out to the public, with attention paid to expanding the role of the Advertising Education Forum, which tackles that challenge in Western Europe. Just as important is exchanging information on how to make self-regulation more effective at addressing public and advertiser concerns; how to gain support and financial backing from business, which self-regulation programs require; and how to spread self-regulation to countries where it does not now exist.
Self-regulation of U.S. national advertising, now 30 years old, is in some ways suffering from its own success. It deserves more financial support from industry, and a push to explore new ways to serve business and the public. Outside the U.S., where advertising is often more vulnerable to government bans and other restrictions, the presence of an effective self-regulation program can be a critical counterpoint.
Advertising self-regulation requires a commitment among marketers to reach agreement on "best practices" whenever advertising and marketing touches sensitive issues, not only on simple truthfulness but also on the hard issues, such as advertising to children and privacy. It makes sense, then, that there should be best practices for self-regulation programs, as well, and we hope the WFA's summit meetings pursue their development worldwide.