An image of Cardiff Castle (Castell Caerdydd) on a sunny day

Success for ‘ethical advertising’ in Cardiff

Back in November 2022, we wrote up details of a meeting held between volunteers from Adblock Cardiff, supported by our friends at Adfree Cities, and Cardiff Council’s cabinet member for strategic planning. We had requested the meeting with Cllr. Dan De’ath to set out our case for why unnecessary, wasteful and environmentally-damaging public advertising should be restricted in our city, and we were pleasantly surprised by his (and his officials’) positive reaction to our campaign.

As we said at the time, there was a lot of common ground in the discussion, with the council accepting that their own corporate plan and the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act gave them a robust legal framework for tougher regulation of advertising in the public realm.

Following that meeting, Adblock Cardiff and Adfree Cities compiled a detailed report setting out the areas where we felt the council’s sponsorship and advertising policies could be strengthened. These led to three specific recommendations:

Recommendation 1: The council’s list of principles underlying its approach to sponsorship and advertising (section 2.1 of the current Sponsorship Policy) should include a new criteria on “ensuring that sponsorship is compatible with the Council’s wider social and ethical responsibilities”.

Recommendation 2: The council’s list of governing principles around the suitability of sponsorship and advertising partners (section 4.6, points (c) and (d) of the current Sponsorship Policy) should be extended to mention “the reputation and credibility of the Council is not damaged by making agreements with unsuitable third parties
including those whose products/services are incompatible with the council’s policy objectives
” and “the form of sponsorship is consistent with the stated objectives of the Council which includes the Council’s image and the need for products/services advertised on Council property to be consistent with its policy objectives”.

Recommendation 3: The council’s list of unsuitable companies, partnerships, organisations or individuals (section 8.1 of the current Sponsorship Policy) should be extended to include:

  • e. junk food (ie, HFSS foods – those High in Fat Sugar & Salt)
  • f. gambling
  • g. high carbon products
  • h. payday loans

In May, we heard back from Cllr. De’ath after he and his officers had considered our report. His response stated:

Officers have confirmed that they do not see an issue with any of the recommendations to the changes in the Advertising and Sponsorship Policy. When the new policy is written and approved, they will be included in future contracts with marketing partners. As discussed in the meeting with officers, the existing contracts utilising the old policy will still stand until 2025. Nearer to this time when the contracts are due for renewal, we will endeavour to arrange a further meeting with you.”

This is excellent news, and represents a major step forward in Cardiff Council’s willingness to take strong action to protect citizens from the most egregious forms of advertising. Whilst it is frustrating that we will have to wait until 2025 for the new policy to take effect, we welcome the council’s willingness to engage, and their commitment to further dialogue. We look forward to keeping the conversation going, and to moving a step forward to our vision for an ad-free Cardiff!

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