Global Warming, Political Climate Heat Up For Advertisers

Global warming is keeping Daniel Jaffe up at night. Since it's his job to worry about looming threats to advertisers, it should probably keep marketers awake, too.

Jaffe, executive vice president for the ANA and its chief lobbyist in Washington, D.C., made his prediction yesterday after a sweeping look at the state of legislation affecting marketers at the ANA's Advertising Law and Business Affairs Conference in New York.

"If this issue becomes hot, clearly someone will try to regulate products," said Jaffe. He pointed to Europe, where restrictive policies are going into place involving sustainability, green labeling and packaging. He said it is not too great a leap to envision products branded as fruits of industrialization contributing to global warming being required to put some sort of disclosure into advertising or facing restrictions on advertising altogether.

"Debate over potential solutions could lead to calls for taxes or restrictions on marketing for a broad range of products, from light bulbs to automobiles to energy sources," he said.

Jaffe has shown prescience before, since he urged the industry to support Big Tobacco's fight against government regulation on the grounds that other industries could one day draw such scrutiny--as has come to pass with food and pharmaceutical advertising.

Given the slender margin by which the Democrats seized control of Congress, Jaffe said, the "power of one" is greater than ever because one or two votes either way can shift the balance dramatically. In addition, the emergence of 24 possible presidential candidates two years before the next election, adds to the political vulnerability of advertisers.

Then there are the non-governmental interest groups weighing in--ranging from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the Institute of Medicine.

"The threats are becoming more pronounced," he said. "Our industry must step up to the plate and defend ourselves."

The hot spots on the horizon as identified by the ANA are:

  • Food marketing to children

  • All children's advertising

  • Prescription drug advertising

  • Consumer privacy issues

  • Advertising taxes

    Consumer privacy, he said, is one of those "sleeper issues" that has been less dominant in recent years, but is poised for resurgence.

    Ad taxes, meanwhile, are also likely to rear their head this year as cash-strapped states start looking for new sources of revenue, and the federal government seeks ways to fund the way in Iraq. Jaffe said he would not be surprised to see some kind of "good food/bad food" tax proposal.

    Jaffe along with ANA president Bob Liodice said the ANA will become active on the political front, playing up the $5.2 trillion economic impact of advertising and its job generation--directly and indirectly influencing about 21 million jobs, or about 15% of all employment in the U.S.

    The bottom line, Jaffe said, is that the industry must be more vigilant than ever about truthfulness, business ethics and self-regulation.

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