I was in Bogotá in early April for a two-day visit where our local association is orchestrating the relaunch of industry-led advertising standards.
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Colombia is a country with a tangible sense of optimism right across the society. The mood since my last visit in 2016 has been transformed. A peace treaty signed last year put an end to 70 years of civil war, enabling a country of 50m people to move on and embrace a brighter future.The economy is picking up (+3% forecast in 2018), ad spend is taking off (+5% forecast in 2018) and digital is growing exponentially (+27% forecast in 2018).
ANDA Colombia understands the importance of this moment and is seizing the opportunity. It has developed, under the leadership of Elizabeth Melo, an ambitious plan to "re-set" advertising self-regulation in the country. The blueprint has been inspired by best-in-class models such as Autocontrol in Spain and ASA in the UK and has garnered support across the entire ecosystem - brands, platforms, agencies, media and even regulators.
At a meeting in Bogota on April 11, the Superintendente de Industria y Comercio – Colombia’s equivalent to the US’s FTC chairman – publicly endorsed the new scheme, to be launched in May. Even better, he announced his plans to delegate the primary responsibility for enforcing ethical ad standards to this new organisation. In a country where industry self-regulation is a pretty novel concept and where governments in the past have been reluctant to engage in public-private partnerships, this is something of a sea change for regulators.
However, the trust and confidence of the Superintendente will come at a price: the industry needs be fully bought in, platforms such as Google and Facebook need to play their part and the performance of the new system will have to be assessed annually by an independent third-party. This is no free lunch. The cosmetics and the food industries in Colombia have already signalled their interest in piggybacking on this new self-regulation platform to run their own sectoral commitments for responsible advertising.
It feels like a new dawn in Colombia. And if all goes to plan, the new Colombia self-regulation organization could set a benchmark for the entire Latin American region.