If you come across an advert for a gambling service on the radio or TV, you’ll probably get a reference to ‘begambleaware.org’. Alcohol advertising comes with ‘drink responsibly’ messaging. There’s a long list of things you can’t do in an alcohol advert, including showing solitary drinking, buying another round, drunkenness or swimming.
Some of these measures are industry iniatives, some of them legal requirements. Both acknowledge that certain products have to be advertised more carefully, because they can be harmful. Some are so harmful that they shouldn’t be advertised at all, and in the UK it is now practically impossible to advertise tobacco – the moral vacuum of Formula 1 sponsorship being the final refuge of tobacco promotion.
In an age of climate crisis, there’s a much longer list of things that need to be promoted more responsibly. Should aviation adverts be more tightly controlled? What about SUVs?
This is not a subject that has had much attention in the UK, the Badvertising campaign notwithstanding. It has made some gains in France however, which voted in new restrictions last month. From March, all car adverts will need to carry the anti-pollution hashtag #SeDéplacerMoinsPolluer, and a responsible travel message. These include “for short journeys, walk or cycle,” encouragements to car share, or take public transport for everyday journeys.
It seems like a long way off to me, but adverts for the most polluting SUVs will be banned entirely from 2028.
I can already hear the ‘war on motorists’ cranks warming up, but I reckon these sorts of measures are a matter of time in the UK too. (Perhaps after a change of government, though they may surprise me.) If you want to help hasten the day, there are plenty of intermediate steps between where we are today and national regulation. Individual media outlets can rule out certain adverts as a matter of policy, as the Guardian did with fossil fuels. Get in touch with any you think could be doing more. Local councils can also restrict the adverts carried on billboards and bus-stops, and Liverpool and Norwich are among those tightening up on high-carbon activities. You can contact your council about this through Possible.