Government regulation

Giving tobacco and alcohol some partners in pain, the big changes in labeling expected in December 2005, has marketers - particularly packaged goods and pharmaceutical - in a state of paralysis: either put their finger in the wind and make changes based on currently available information, or wait until everything is definitive and suffer the even greater expense of playing catch-up.

Giving tobacco and alcohol some partners in pain, the big changes in labeling expected in December 2005, has marketers – particularly packaged goods and pharmaceutical – in a state of paralysis: either put their finger in the wind and make changes based on currently available information, or wait until everything is definitive and suffer the even greater expense of playing catch-up.

‘Our clients want to do the right thing; they just need to know what that is,’ says Brenda Pritchard, a lawyer specializing in advertising and marketing law at Toronto-based Gowling Lafleur Henderson. Antiperspirants are a prime example. First, the government categorized them as natural health products, later, drugs. ‘Companies are trying to make decisions now about how they’re going to be marketing products. It becomes extremely expensive if you can’t get any definitive answer as to how the government is going to deal with these issues.’

In this ball of confusion, agencies have been forced to cozy up to the likes of Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to offer their clients some direction. The fallout is that most advertising execs have become armchair legislators, says Kevin Brady, president of Toronto-based health agency Anderson DDB, whose clients includes pharmaceutical and natural health products companies.

‘It’s almost like one of the skill sets of our advertising people has been to become cognizant of the legislation, so that when we launch we know what is going to be the possible impact of changes down the road. I won’t say we double shoot everything, but we always ensure we’re covered as opposed to trying to make up ground later,’ he says.

Feel like sticking your head in the sand? Don’t. ‘If marketers don’t address it, there will be ramifications under the regulations,’ says Pritchard. ‘The CFIA [will be] enforcing the Food and Drugs Act and they can seize products if they’re not properly labeled.’

SURVEY SAYS!

Says Pritchard. ‘My advice is to start planning early and leave yourself a lot of time. The nutritional labeling will be a good thing, but right now it’s a big challenge.’