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Truth in Advertising

Written by Sherwin, published on September 30, 2009

Truth in Advertising ad by the ASC

This is a good ad. I love the copy. It’s folksy – the language is down to earth. Heck, it could be my mom talking, the voice of the ad is that good.

Truth in Advertising ad by the ASC

“Fact is, truth is an essential part of any successful ad campaign. Smart advertisers have known this for years. That’s why the advertising industry created the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. For more than 40 years, the Code has set standards for acceptable advertising in Canada. It helps ensure that the ads you see are truthful, fair and accurate. Check it out for yourself. Because the more you know about advertising, the more you get out of it.”

The ASC Code apparently exists to help advertisers, especially the not so smart ones. I guess the free market isn’t smart enough to regulate itself, so it needs a little help so that advertisers tell the truth. I haven’t read the ASC Code yet. And I’m here and now committing to reviewing it. I look forward to it. This particular ad assures me that ads in Canada are “truthful, fair and accurate”. But there is some small, cynical part of me that wonders if this would be worth advertising for if it was actually the case. I struggle with this kind of cynicism though because I do believe in education through advertising. Gosh, I even believe in advertising! But when I really ask myself, if ads are fair, I balk. True, sure. The best propaganda is always true. Let’s raise our standards though shall we? Truth is not enough.

If you don’t already trust ads, will one more ad help?

The question might be, do ads help us to live better lives? Or perhaps, do ads make us smarter? Wiser? These are reasonable expectations. Or the question could be framed on the flip side. Do ads make us stupid? Do they lie to us, despite being true?

This is why the language of “fair” is curious to me. This is a higher standard than true, and if ads are fair that is really interesting. Of course, the ASC might have a very low expectation of fair. What they mean by fair could be really weak – like, it could simply mean legal. Or, even worse, it could simply be another term for true. That would be somehow irresistibly funny since this ad would then be propaganda for the ad industry. It would then be meta-propaganda! It’s a bit of a trust issue isn’t it. If you don’t already trust ads, will one more ad really help?

To learn more about the Code, visit www.adstandards.com or call their recorded toll free information line at 1-877-656-8646. I’m going to.

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