Brit Political Ads May Be Forced to Toe Truth Line

23 July 2002

The UK political advertising scene – currently a turbid miasma of lies, half-truths and character assassination – may be forced to toe the same line as the nation’s commercial advertisers. Namely, to quote the mantra of Britain's Advertising Standards Authority: “legal, decent, honest and truthful”.

Currently unregulated (the ASA in frustration renounced any attempt to referee the political advertising brawl in 1997 after the Conservative Party ran with M&S Saatchi’s notorious “demon eyes” campaign), party political ads could soon be policed by a watchdog with real teeth – the Electoral Commission.

The commission’s chief executive Sam Younger, who as former head of the BBC World Service is more media-savvy than most, has launched a review with the objective of policing political advertising.

The review will seek input from political parties, newspaper and magazine publishers and poster contractors, soliciting their views on political advertising via a consultation document to be issued in August.

According to a commission spokesperson, the consultation would include a “future regulatory framework for political advertising” and the results are expected to be published next year.

The move was welcomed by ASA director general Christopher Graham: “Parliamentarians are forever making new rules to protect the consumer against commercial advertising but, when it comes to their own campaigns, the gloves are off,” he ruefully observed.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff