Sveriges Annonsörers (Sweden's advertisers organisation) has launched a press campaign with the help of ad agency Shout. In the campaign which mainly runs in Swedish business news similar to the FT, they aim to make people think about who gets to decide what can and can not be done in advertising. Politicians personal points of view or a code created by common sense and industry self regulation? Their weapon of choice, that tired old irony, is trotted out to show what might happen if laws instead of self regulation become the norm.
(First ad, above) Headline reads: Should politicians personal views decide how much skin shall be allowed?
The president of SverigesAnnonsörer, Anders Ericson, says in a press release that: "in the end it is about freedom of speech". This is interesting because legally, commercial speech and a citizens freedom of speech are not the same thing and a president of the advertisers organisation should know that.* He continues:
People and companies communicate - and have always communicated - in order to influence each other. As individuals or as a group. It is necessary for our entire existence. But during the recent past years our business has been attacked by politicians and journalists alike. There's been an ambition to limit companies ability to communicate via advertising. This threatens the constitutional right of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
The debate has these past years been concentrated on the so called "sexualisation of the public space", where advertisers and advertising agencies are accused of gender stereotyping and pornographic advertising. Another example of the debate is the madness of banning all advertising on the city buses in Örebro. In Gothenburg the municipal executive committee have suggested a ban on advertising in the cities public spaces that sells junk food to children and ads that exploit women. What's next?
Sure advertisers have a huge responsibility. Advertising that doesn't respect or ads that ridicule will bite the advertisers in the ass. Promises that are not kept risk disastrous consequences for a brand. For the companies there are both laws and ethical guidelines that
regulate what you may and may not communicate. Through self regulation where the trade and industry themselves set the standard in how advertising should be made is we think, stil the best way to guard our freedom of speech.
My personal fave in this series, the Explicit lyrics sticker on this album warns that words like "schnapps", "pipe-tobacco" and "warm summer evenings" are on this album..
The warning label reads: "Milk can be dangerous if you drink 200 litres a day".
That last one sounds a bit like the insane warning labels put on some US products to protect against getting sued if some idiot blow-dried their hair while in the shower. ;)
*Freedom of speech? The difference between commercial speech and personal speech is easy to find in Sweden, as a company is not a citizen, although citizens may work at a company of course. If this has changed recently I didn't get the memo.
The Constitution states that
1 § "Every citizen is ensured : 1) Freedom of speech: freedom through speaking, writing or images or in other ways of informing information as well as expressing thoughts, opinions and feelings.
The constitution does not state that companies enjoy this same right. Read it yourself if you can read Swedish.