Marketers call for tougher rules; do they mean it man?

marketersMost marketers say they would welcome stricter regulation of the advertising industry, with just 26% of professionals reckoning the current regulatory regime is fit for purpose, amid calls for tougher restrictions on products that damage the environment, gambling ads and even junk food.

That is the stark conclusion of a new study carried out by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), ‘The CMO 50’, which surveyed the most senior marketers across 50 of the UK’s largest corporates, charities and marketing agencies.

It reveals that more than three-quarters (76%) back marketing restrictions for products that damage the environment, and are keen to see limits similar to those for cigarettes.

Meanwhile a similar proportion (72%) support restrictions for gambling, nearly three-fifths (58%) for products aimed at children, more than half (54%) for unhealthy HFSS foods, despite industry uproar over the Government pre-watershed ban and more than a third (34%) for alcohol.

In addition, more than half (54%) of marketing leaders think there is currently too little regulation of social media, and just 44% feel it is not the responsibility of marketers to protect the users of their social media channels.

But while the survey does not break down which sectors these professionals work in – after all, most firms would¬†be unlikely to¬†welcome more restrictions in their own industries – the UK’s top marketers are bullish about growth for their organisations as the country emerges from lockdown.

Prospects for the coming year were rated as 81 out of 100, despite more than half (57%) having seen marketing budgets cut over the last year.

The vast majority (71%) also believe that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a positive impact on the perception of their brand. More than twice the proportion (52%) believe that the marketing sector is stronger than five years ago; only 20% believe it is weaker.

This resilience with which brands have weathered the uncertainty of Covid is driving a desire to overcome regulatory uncertainty to smooth the path of recovery, the CIM states.

CIM chief executive Chris Daly said: “Marketing leaders calling for restrictions on marketing may seem counterintuitive, but it reflects a clear shift in our society towards purpose driven marketing.

“Marketers have been at the forefront of helping the nation adapt to the strictures of lockdown, and in doing so have built stronger relationships with consumers.

“That hard-won reputational boost has the potential to accelerate economic growth as we emerge from lockdown, and professional marketers are rightly wary of loose regulatory controls allowing a few bad apples to sour the trust of consumers.”

The acceleration of structural shifts in society’s use of technology is also reflected in the views of marketers. Some 92% of those interviewed, believe brands have a direct duty to pull advertising from social media platforms that fail to protect users.

When push comes to shove, however, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube are still the go-to channels for most marketers and their record of protecting users – especially children – is hardly exemplary.

Even so, just 44% of those surveyed believe that the protection of social media users lay outside the responsibility of marketers. In contrast, 86% agreed that professional marketers should encourage social media platforms to do more to protect users.

Overall optimism for the economy was rated at just 62%, in comparison to 71% for the marketing sector generally and 81% for their own firm. There was little variation between levels of optimism and pessimism across inhouse and agency roles, despite 50% of agency leaders having seen revenues rise over the last 12 months, in contrast to just 24% seeing a rise in their inhouse budgets.

Marketing leaders identified four clear themes to their future plans to adapt to the needs of the post-Covid economy: adaptation to changes in technology and data; motivating, retaining and managing people; recruitment and development of the right skills; and, finally, demonstrating the value of marketing investment versus expenditure.

Separate research referenced in the report (from Hays in partnership with CIM) highlights that 82% of marketing professionals planned to upskill or undertake professional qualifications in 2021.

Daly concluded: “To prosper, a professional marketer needs clear parameters within which to work. Give them the rules and a level playing field and marketers will adapt and deliver.

“Having accommodated the necessary changes of GDPR, the UK’s most senior marketers are right to be wary of the dangers that poorly policed social media platforms pose to the long-term growth of their brands and the wider economy.

“The UK marketing community has an opportunity to build back better by targeting spend and training on marketing channels and products that deliver greater value to our society.”

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