Top ad man advocates self-regulation in advertising industry


At a joint forum titled ‘Who should control advertising?’ organized by The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Sri Lanka Region and the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM), Ranil de Silva, Managing Director, Leo Burnett Solutions Inc (LBSI) reflected his views on the importance of creating a self-regulation regime to ensure responsibility in marketing communications.

As an advertising veteran with over 30 years of experience in the industry; Ranil spoke on the importance of self regulation to ensure that the fraternity remains responsible and personally accountable to sell the truth. In his address he called upon a partnership between various bodies in government, marketing, media and advertising to collaborate to introduce self regulation in Sri Lanka under the jurisdiction of a governing body. ‘‘The need for creativity to build ideas that brings out the promise of the brand to life is crucial. However the need for this freedom must be exercised with responsibility so that brands can speak the truth about their product through powerful and engaging communications.’’ he said.

"As a person I do seek protection from advertisements, advertisers, brands and products in the hope that I am not misled. However, as a catalyst in the creation of marketing communications, we need the freedom to build empathy for the brands in our care. To create ideas that brings out the promise of the brands to life. However, I am conscious that this freedom must be exercised with responsibility.

"After all every sports shoe is quite similar; it is the branding and its communications which set Nike apart and more recently enabled Adidas to make a claim of its own. Be it Rexona, Janet, Pro-Sport, Super Max, Fa or Axe – they all very much fulfill the same functional benefit. However, Axe has built its franchise with upwardly mobile males through its powerful and engaging communications. Neither Axe nor Nike misled its customer. In fact they told the truth about their product through powerful and engaging human stories.

"I have also been a regulator and have served on the CDDA. This experience has taught me that as a regulator we must know our role and responsibility as well as the jurisdiction granted to us. I might add that the state does not have the expertise or the experience within itself to be a regulator of marketing communications. We cannot permit the hidden ad person inside of us or the language teacher we might have wanted to be to determine how we fulfill our role as regulators at the CDDA etc. We need to give license to creativity but must know where the line must be drawn. My experiencein serving at the CDDA taught me about the fine line between truth and fiction as well as how our minds could stretch. It is the lack of honesty that causes these issues. However, we know that in every country, category or community there are a few errant people. These few people create the need for law and order to be enforced. If everyone abided by the civil law there wouldn’t be a need for the police! Similarly, if all of us acted responsibly this subject or the need for regulation wouldn’t have arisen.

"I am a strong advocate for self-regulation - as responsible manufacturers, marketers and advertising professionals we must exercise self-control and resist the temptation to deviate from the truth. We are all responsible corporates and more importantly personally accountable individuals.

"All communications are built upon a human truth. Our role is to make this truth come to life and to make it resonate with people. Without the truth we will be selling lies. Therefore in my opinion self-regulation is the answer. It is incumbent upon a marketer to be truthful and as advertising professionals to stretch our creative mind to build our stories within this truth and to focus on the actual factors, results etc.

"The IAA has a global initiative and extensive learning on this subject. The IAA is in fact a global front runner on self-regulation. In Sri Lanka too we had taken many steps forward to bring about a self-regulation regime. In fact a final draft for self-regulation in Sri Lanka is available somewhere in someone’s drawer or computer. To get started we need to find it, dust it and get going with it as a starting point.

"What is now required is a partnership between the various bodies - marketing, media and advertising and the state to introduce self-regulation to Sri Lanka. This initiative requires the endorsement of all stakeholders to the regime and an implementing body or a council to manage it. A governing group which would address errant behavior and take to task those who deviate from good governance and responsibility. Self-regulation will result in wins for all stakeholders and very specially a win for the people who believe what we say and buy the products and services that are offered to them."

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