What does The Economist have to say ?

10:46 AM, 22 January 2014

Will Gilroy of the World Federation of Advertisers notes there has been a surge in self regulatory activity in recent years. Internationally, there is a clear trend showing that commitments by industry are having a significant effect on marketing behaviour. Companies involved in the EU Pledge confirm that children's exposure to junk food marketing is now 48% lower than in 2005, and Americas food marketing spend has been cut by almost 20%. Here in New Zealand, advertising of food products on television in children's time zones represents just 6% of advertising, and all ads comply with nutritional requirements for that time zone.

At the same time, packaged foods are becoming more wholesome and sales of better-for-you food and drink products are continuing to rise, so industry is playing its past both in terms of communication and product choice.

The argument over whether such progress is fast and far-reaching enough hides disagreements about how resilient children are, whether marketing has a bright side and whether it deserves the protection given to other forms of speech. Campaigners point to children's vulnerability; marketing folk highlight that consumerism is not inherently corrosive and that advertising promotes choice, thus responsibility. As Ian Twinn of ANZAs UK equivalent ISBA says; Without advertising you end up with the peoples toy of Soviet-era planned economies.

As The Economist concludes, Activists believe rule-makers should adopt the precautionary principle, that protecting children trumps other concerns. Marketers urge proportionality, giving weight to other interests like competition and profit. In most countries proportionality seems to be winning. This is probably a good thing.

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