Ad Industry Self-Regulation: History Says, Better Than the Alternatives (or Your Money Back)

March 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Rance Crain, President of Crain communications, and Editor-in-Chief of Advertising Age, offers a retrospective on advertising industry self-regulation going back to the good old, “Mad Men” days. We take it for granted today (or should be able to take it for granted) that product claims in advertising are credible and can survive scrutiny, but it was not always so. Reminisces Rance:

Colgate’s Rapid Shave, for example, demonstrated in TV commercials that its lather could shave through sandpaper: “To prove Rapid Shave’s super-moisturizing power, we put it right from the can onto this tough, dry sandpaper. It was apply … soak … and off in a stroke!”

Never mind that it took 80 minutes of soaking to penetrate the sandpaper or that the sandpaper wasn’t even sandpaper; it was really Plexiglas made to look like sandpaper.

Campbell’s Soup was called on the carpet for putting marbles in the soup bowl to better show off its ingredients in TV commercials. And Listerine was forced to run corrective advertising to admit that the mouthwash couldn’t cure colds or sore throats.

Advertising had to have its back to the wall, however, in order to make progress towards self-regulation. Rance Crain concludes by quoting Howard Bell, Chairman of the National Advertising  Review Board:

 “If there hadn’t of been a firestorm against the industry, ad people would have said we don’t need it, and some did anyway.”

The call for advertising self-regulation happened and it worked. The call is happening again, and it can work again.

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