Medway Council, the City Logo and the ASA

On 14th March, the BBC reported that “The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) told Medway Council using the logo ‘City of Medway, rich heritage, great future’ was misleading.”

On 15th March, Kent News reported that “Medway Council has criticised the Advertising Standards Authority after being told to stop referring to Medway as a city on its promotional material.”

Based on conversations I have had, most people would agree that by referring to Medway as a city, Medway Council is giving a misleading impression.

 

Medway Greens Campaigning in Gillingham

Medway Green Party members in Gillingham High Street campaigning for residents to be consulted about the council's city bid

Whilst searching for other related news items, I came across a bizarre article – Medway Council calls Advertising Standards Authority ruling ‘waste of time’ – on the council’s web site; the article’s second paragraph stated:

“But Medway Council now seriously [my emphasis] believes the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) should investigate the town Welwyn Garden City, the music venue Nottingham Rock City and even its own headquarters following a bizarre ‘waste of time’ ruling by the marketing watchdog.”

The article also stated:

“And Medway Council believes that, in the interest of decency and fair play [again, my emphasis], the ASA cannot make this ruling and ignore these other minor misdemeanours.”

And amongst Alan Jarrett’s many comments was this:

“If they [the ASA] are going to do that [rule against the council’s use of city], though, they need to look at other places across the country that use the name city in their title. In fact, to help them in this we have compiled a list of other places that they should now investigate [again, my emphasis]. After all, if they are going to waste our time then they should at least play fair and waste everyone else’s as well.”

I find these statements and comments to be revealing.  Medway Council is very displeased with the ASA ruling and considers it unfair yet considers similar rulings would now be decent and fair.  This shows Medway Council’s apparent definitions of decency and fairness: if one party is treated poorly then it is decent and fair to treat all parties poorly.

I wonder how Medway Council would feel if they had been investigated and ruled against following the basis of their argument?

The ASA ruling is worth a read but I will highlight some points:

  • Medway Council said the word ‘city’ was defined in the English dictionary as any large town, or as the people of a city collectively, or (in Britain) as a town that had received the title from the Crown. They argued that it was appropriate to describe Medway as a city because, although it did not hold city status from the Crown, it did constitute a large town. Even if you accept Medway is an area rather than a river, it is a collection of towns and not just one town – the council’s own document Five Towns Make a City show this to be the case!
  • They [Medway Council] also believed many would understand it [the reference to city] to mean a place with an Anglican cathedral and pointed out that Medway’s cathedral [my emphasis] was the second oldest in Britain, after Canterbury. The cathedral is not Medway’s but Rochester’s.
  • They [Medway Council] said they had carried out market research on a random sample of 500 people in Medway. Of those surveyed, 38% thought the use of the word ‘city’ in the logo meant Medway had a cathedral, and 56% thought Medway was bidding for city status. They did not send the full details of the survey’s methodology or results [my emphasis]. I find it hard to believe that more than a third of the people questioned believe Medway, rather than Rochester, has a cathedral but the fact that Medway Council did not send the full details of the survey’s methodology or results is telling.

The lack of rigour in Medway Council’s arguments is clear.

David M. Davison

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6 Responses to “Medway Council, the City Logo and the ASA”

  1. I understand that Medway have now lost their case with the ASA

  2. Oops – I see you have reported that already – my mistake! 🙂

  3. Hi again,

    Here is a letter sent to the ASA re this topic:

    Dear Sir / Madam,

    I write regarding Medway Council’s inappropriate use of a City Logo some two years before they have acquired that status by Royal assent. I understand you are considering the use of a logo on a tourist leaflet. Let me assure you that this is the tip of a very large iceberg. Some examples:

    Medway have bullied Arriva Bus Company and Veolia Waste Management into carrying the logo on their vehicles, to delude the public into thinking Medway is a City

    They have decorated empty shops with the logo using their ‘Medway City’ card. They have co-opted various businesses into the scheme to delude the public about the City status.

    The logo appears on various public websites e.g,. http://www.cityofmedway.org

    Their leader Alan Jarrett, went on the BBC and said ‘We can call ourselves anything we like’, when questioned about the lack of Royal assent to City status.

    They offer the general public various bunting displays to perpetuate this great illusion.

    I believe your current action is restricted to the logo on the leaflet. I would ask you to take these facts into account and make a wider ruling on this unethical and shameful behaviour by people who are supposed to be setting standards of decency for others to follow.

    Yours etc.

  4. Jawdropping “above the law” arrogance from someone you can vote out of office in a few weeks’ time. Make it so.

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