1. I am the Director General and Chief Executive of The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, an industry association to which most leading companies belong. I took over this post in April 1979 and have worked since then with a great many companies and other public organisations, advising and representing them on everything connected with advertising and promotion. This includes working closely with Government departments and agencies, such as the Office of Fair Trading.
2. I have been associated with marketing and advertising activities for 40 years and have worked in several major corporations in marketing and advertising management roles.
3. Consequently, I have had considerable experience of evaluating important issues in the advertising field, and understanding the ways in which advertising is regulated and planned.
4. I have read the leaflet "What's Wrong with McDonald's" and the pleadings in this action produced by the defendants and the plea of justification headed "Advertising Aimed at Children."
5. As part of my current responsibilities, I represent advertisers as a member of the Advertising Advisory Committee of the Independent Television Commission [previously the IBA] and also of the Committee of Advertising Practice, which draws up the codes implemented by the Advertising Standards Authority. As a Board member of the World Federation of Advertisers, I am also closely involved with advertising issues internationally, and I am able to have a good picture of the way in which advertising subjects are handled in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the world.
6. In the United Kingdom, as in most countries, advertising is seen as a legitimate part of commercial activity and is valued by customers. It reinforces the role of competition in ensuring high quality goods and services for the public, who understand that most advertising is designed to keep them informed about one competitive brand or service in competition with another. McDonald's Restaurants form one such "brand", competing with every other kind of food retailer and also with alternative arrangements for meals, the provision of which forms a key responsibility for most housewives with children.
7. There are laws and self-regulatory codes operating in this country, as in the European Community as a whole and other countries around the world, to ensure that advertisements do not mislead and are "legal, decent, honest and truthful." These laws and codes vary slightly from one country to another, but they share common standards that advertising should not mislead.
8. The United Kingdom is recognised as having high standards and particularly well organised systems of control. There are few complaints about advertisements, especially involving children since the control mechanism, through the ITC and the ASA, ensures that advertisements do reflect the general values held by society. It is fully appreciated that particular care is needed to ensure that advertisements do not mislead children, and the advertising codes include provisions to this effect, with strong support from industry.
9. Research shows that advertisements perform a valuable role of information and persuasion for both parents and children, especially where food is concerned. We know that many children are difficult feeders, and advertisements help them to see meal time occasions - such as eating at a McDonald's restaurant - as enjoyable occasions, rather than something imposed upon them. Parents have the responsibility of feeding their children adequately, and the occasional visit to a McDonald's restaurant can clearly be a useful part of the repertoire which parents can offer to children as an additional meal time choice.
10. Consequently, I see the advertisements for McDonald's Restaurants as playing a construction part in showing both parents and children an additional and competitive choice in meal time opportunities. The advertisements themselves are clearly designed to be attractive and enjoyable - indeed we know that advertisements which are not enjoyable will be rejected by adults or children. It is, therefore, quite correct for McDonald's to make their advertisements attractive to their customers, just as they make restaurants attractive to those customers.
11. I have had the opportunity of viewing many of the McDonald's advertisements, particularly TV commercials and also of reading their own code of standards. I believe all these conform satisfactorily to the codes and standards laid down by the ITC and ASA and I see no cause for criticism of them, as set out by the defendants. It is clearly not true to say that nearly all McDonald's advertising is aimed at children, nor do I see any valid reason why the consumption of meals should not be seen as a fun event. On the other hand, I have seen no example of "pester power", or advertisements urging children to insist to their parents that they eat at McDonald's, let alone the suggestion that children might "think they aren't normal if they don't go there".
12. The research that I have seen suggests strongly that even young children are normally able to identify advertisements from television programmes, that they recognise the purpose of advertisements, and that these form an acceptable and normal part of their everyday life. In the great majority of products advertised, children are not in a position to buy the product or services for themselves, therefore the buying is carried out by parents or other adults. Most parents are perfectly capable of responding to requests from children, and this forms a normal part of family life. Indeed, for children to understand that their parents will not always agree to requests may be seen as an essential part of "growing-up".
13. It is not correct to suggest that advertisements are the biggest single influence on children - there is a great deal of research to show that parental decisions come first, followed by suggestions from the "peer group". Advertisements form one of the influences of children's choice of brands, but it is well known in advertising circles that if a product does not live up to the expectations formed by the advertising, then the consumer, especially children, will not wish to consume the product a second time.
14. In conclusion, I do not consider that the statements made in the leaflet criticising McDonald's advertising have any valid basis to be taken seriously. The comments are a distortion of the responsible and attractive approach taken by McDonald's in their advertising.
11 January 1994|
Appeared in court|
exhibits: Not applicable/ available
transcripts of court appearances: