Abstract: Swedish Business Associations and the Self-Regulation of Advertising, 1950-1971

Michael Funke


This paper uses qualitative methods to study the role of the Swedish business community in the development of self-regulation of advertising during 1950-1971. It does so by examining the strategies of three business associations involved in self-regulation and their relations to the main self-regulative bodies. The associations are the Swedish Marketing Association, the Association of Swedish Advertisers, and the Advertising Association of Sweden. Until 1971, advertising in Sweden was largely regulated not by law, but by self-regulation. Three perspectives on self-regulation among members and the leadership of the associations and the self-regulative bodies are identified. Reformers wanted more efficient and fair self-regulation and increased participation by both producers and consumers. This meant creating a pro-active component and greater transparency. Market Liberals wanted weak sanctions and a minimum of coercion, and saw producer issues as more important than those of the consumer. They favored negotiations and secrecy, avoiding public attention as it risked generating bad will. Both groups defended the independence of self-regulation. Power Players wanted to let in trade unions and women's organizations as consumer representatives into the NOp, embedding self-regulation inside corporatism. This was to avoid self-regulation being replaced by legislation. All associations perceived a risk that the ruling Social Democracy would resort to this measure. This fear was enhanced by public criticism of advertising. The Market Association was a think tank without a bargaining function on the market, and was dominated by Market Liberals. The Association of Advertisers was a powerful bargaining group on the market, and was dominated by Power Players. The Advertising Association also bargained on the market, but was weaker and its members more singled out in criticism of advertising. It was dominated by Reformers. The inability of the associations to agree upon a strategy on self-regulation weakened the system. This contributed to its subordination to legislation in 1971.