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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Letter to Sir John Caines - ASA Independent reviewer

Dear Sir John,

Thank you for you letter – I am however extremely angry with your decision to uphold the Airbus advert. My anger will be shared by many others. The population is becoming increasingly terrified by the prospects of climate change and angry about the way in which large organisations such as Airbus are continually subverting the debate to protect their short term profit motives. We suffer this terror as we watch organisations such as Airbus receiving protection and support from the state, whilst the self evident rights to the future that we should enjoy are denied us.

Your action to support Airbus’s propaganda and false representations only reaffirms that the systems in place do not protect the individual, but are designed primarily to protect the rights of business to develop irrespective of the environmental damage caused.

Your decision to uphold the Airbus advert is based on several alarming, naïve and dangerous positions.

In your justification letter to me you have said:-

  • “The Council’s view was based upon a judgement that readers of National Geographic would understand that the advertiser was not claiming that the aviation industry had no adverse impact on the environment.” Are you seriously trying to suggest that because the National Geographic is aimed an articulate and intelligent audience they will automatically be able to decipher fact from fantasy? History is full intelligent people who have been lead astray with disastrous consequences. Airbus’s advert is in the National Geographic precisely because it is a prestigious publication. Airbus’s marketing department clearly wanted its name associated with the National Geographic as a way of combating the debate on the impact of aviation on climate change. The fact that it is in the National Geographic gives credence to its claim that it is “working towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
  • “Readers of National Geographic would be unlikely to regard the advertisement as a claim that Airbus was taking actions which would lead to absolute, rather than relative, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.” This a ridiculous position for the Advertising Standards Agency to take. Firstly, you have no way of knowing how this advert is perceived by National Geographic readers. Secondly, the aviation industry this week has been peddling its nonsense about being able to reduce its absolute emissions by 50% by 2050, when it has already failed to meet any of its past environmental targets. The reader will clearly assume that this advert is relating to absolute emissions. This after all, is the intention of the advert.
  • “The Council has to strike a balance between preserving freedom of expression and ensuring that such freedom is not seriously harmful to the interests of others.” Are you saying that an organisation such as Airbus can be allowed to use its massive marketing budget to blatantly lie about its environmental credentials as this is essential to the preservation of freedom of expression? You should know that the combined marketing budgets and publicity machines of the many carbon intensive companies such as Airbus by far exceeds the worlds scientific budget on climate change. Ever since climate change was first highlighted as a serious problem in the late 1970s, big business has successfully subverted the debate to ensure profitability. This is not freedom of expression or open debate. This is manipulation on a grand scale, and this advert is simply part of this.
  • “I know that this decision will be a disappointment to you and for that I am sorry. I realise that you feel very strongly about the impact of the aviation industry on the environment” This is patronising and belittling nonsense that I can do without. To say that I feel strongly is a gross understatement. I am angry at my environment being destroyed and my taxes being diverted to the aviation industry. Not only am I angry, but so are thousands of others. Many of these intelligent people are now sacrificing their own liberty by taking direct action, as there is no other real option to influence decision making. You have demonstrated again that the only way forward is by direct action.

Finally you may want to explain to me what the Advertising Standards Agency is for? This complaint, and the lack of adherence to your own code, clearly demonstrates that it is not to ensure truthful and honest claims to the public. Instead it seems that the ASA’s job is to ensure that the marketing interests of business are allowed to operate, irrespective of the environmental damage that may ensue. You have demonstrated the truth of the Plane Stupid claim that the "ASA are as toothless as a new born."

I will post this correspondence on my blog, and copy to my MP.

Kevin Lister

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Request for appeal on the Airbus Adverts

Letter to the Advertising Standards Agency Independent Reviewer

Dear Sirs,

I have been told in email correspondence with Julia Dean that the grounds for which a request can be made is “Where there is a substantial flaw in the Council's adjudication or in the process by which that adjudication was made.”

You will note that the letter I received states that the “ASA council has considered the ad and your complaint but concluded there was no breach of the Code.”

I have since checked the code. This advert is clearly and unequivocally in breach of the ASA code. The relevant sections that it is in breach follow below: -

49.1 The basis of any claim should be explained clearly and should be qualified where necessary. Unqualified claims can mislead if they omit significant information.

The ASA Council’s justification for rejecting the complaint is that Airbus did not make any specific claims about particular projects that the advertisers were involved with or goals.” By definition, the ASA are acknowledging that the statement is unqualified as they recognise that no specific claims are made; hence ASA Council has not abided by its own code and there is a substantial flaw in the adjudication.

The advert also says, “working towards.” Airbus do not say how long it will take nor by how much they intend to reduce greenhouse gases nor do they explain the basis of their claim, hence this is a totally unqualified statement, further justifying that the ASA Council has not abided by its own code and there is a substantial flaw in the adjudication.

49.2 Claims such as ‘environmentally friendly’ or ‘wholly biodegradable’ should not be used without qualification unless marketers can provide convincing evidence that their product will cause no environmental damage when taking into account the full life cycle of the product. Qualified claims and comparisons such as ‘greener’ or ‘friendlier’ may be acceptable if marketers can substantiate that their product provides an overall improvement in environmental terms either against their competitors’ or their own previous products.

Airbus cannot present any convincing evidence that they are working towards reducing greenhouse gases. The Tindal Report, 2005 ( available at quantifies the rise in emissions from aviation. All the evidence proves unequivocally that greenhouse gas emissions from aviation are increasing significantly and that any claims that the airline industry is reducing, or can reduce emissions, without major reductions in capacity is totally false.

In addition Airbus has implied in the advert that its drive to improve fuel efficiency is part of its drive towards to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, it has not qualified that this fuel efficiency is primarily being achieved on long range planes such as the new A380, were the total emissions will be far higher than any previous plane.

The ASA Council is therefore in breach of its own code as it has allowed the claim of working towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions without qualification and in spite of the fact that the marketers can not provide any convincing evidence for their claim of working towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is a substantial flaw in the adjudication process.

49.3 Where there is a significant division of scientific opinion or where evidence is inconclusive this should be reflected in any statements made in the marketing communication. Marketers should not suggest that their claims command universal acceptance if that is not the case.

There is no division of scientific opinion on climate change. The reverse is true. The absolute consensus is that cuts in excess of 80% need to be made to greenhouse gas emissions as documented in the Copenhagen Climate Conference report ( Furthermore there is absolutely no scientific evidence that suggests the aviation industry can achieve any significant cuts at all.

Thus the ASA Council is again in breach of its own guidance as it has allowed the advert in contrary to the main body of scientific opinion. This is a substantial flaw in the adjudication process.

Climate change is the defining issue of our time. The vested interests of companies such as Airbus is fundamentally derailing the debate and putting the entire future of the planet at risk. It is vital that this sort of misrepresentation is not tolerated. Its precedent is the cigarette adverts of the 1950s, were ludicrous claims such as safety cigarettes were fostered on an ignorant population. Adverts of this nature are exactly the same, only the implications of none action are greater.

I will also copy this correspondence to my MP, David Drew

Yours sincerely,

Kevin Lister

Letter from the ASA - Nothing wrong with the Airbus Advert

Dear Mr Lister


Thank you for contacting the Advertising Standards Authority.

The ASA Council has considered the ad and your complaint but concluded there was no breach of the Code. This is because the Council noted that the ad did not make any specific claims about particular projects that the advertisers were involved with or goals achieved in terms of “reducing greenhouse gas emissions, lowering fuel consumption, and creating quieter, more efficient aircraft.” These claims were all stated as generalised aspirations, relative to the advertisers own actions and current levels of emissions, fuel consumption and noise; there was no specific claim that the advertisers could or would reduce the net environmental impact of the industry. The Council therefore concluded that readers of National Geographic would be aware of the fact that the aviation industry contributed significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, among other things, and would not regard the ad as claiming that the advertisers were taking action that would lead to absolute, rather than relative, reductions.

I realise that will disappoint you and, although we won’t be taking any other action, we’ve told the advertiser about your concerns (without revealing your identity).

Our website,, contains information about the ASA and the work we do, including the results of investigations into other complaints, many of which have been upheld.

Yours sincerely,

Julia Dean