March 01, 2024   4:35am
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On Harriett's Mind

Truth in Advertising

Let’s bring back “Truth in Advertising”

Here’s a question for you.  Shouldn’t the Federal Trade Commission’s “Truth in Advertising” rules apply to political campaigns?

Back in business school, one of the first dictums we learned was that you better be darn sure your ad was honest.  Tempted to do otherwise, you’d be at risk for severe penalties. You can imagine what would happen if that rule didn’t apply.  Companies would spend enormous amounts to exaggerate claims for their own products while damning those of their competitors.  Uhhh … something like what is going on right now during this Presidential campaign.

Curious to see just what “Truth in Advertising” rules are today, I checked them out on the FTC website.  To save you time, here are some salient points:

Under the Federal Trade Commission Act …

  • Advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive;
  • Advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims; and
  • Advertisements cannot be unfair…

An Ad is deceptive if it contains a statement – or omits information – that:

  • Is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances; and
  • Is “material” – that is, important to a consumer’s decision to buy or use the product…

The FTC determines if an ad is deceptive by looking at:

  • the ad from the point of view of the “reasonable consumer” …
  • both “express” and “implied” claims…
  • what the ad does not say …
  • whether the claim would be “material”…
  • whether the advertiser has sufficient evidence to support the claims…

Advertising agencies are subject to the FTC Act and may be held legally responsible for misleading claims in ads … Ad claims on the Internet … and over the telephone … must be truthful and substantiated.

The penalties that can be imposed include:

  • Cease and desist orders…
  • Civil penalties, consumer redress and other monetary remedies…
  • Corrective advertising, disclosures and other informational remedies…

The FTC decides what cases to bring based upon:

  • FTC jurisdiction…
  • The geographic scope of the advertising campaign. The FTC concentrates on national advertising…
  • The extent to which an ad represents a pattern of deception, rather than an individual dispute…
  • The amount of injury – to consumers’ health, safety, or wallets – that could result if consumers rely on the deceptive claim …

…The FTC is authorized to act when it appears that a company’s advertising is deceptive and when FTC action is in the public interest…

So … here’s the rub … political advertising as far as I can tell, doesn’t fall under anyone’s jurisdiction …

Maybe we can start by filing a a complaint about the political ads to your congressman!  For your senator’s webmail address click here … or for finding out who your senator and or congress person is and how to contact them click here.

As long as the U.S. Congress is going to be forming new committees, maybe one of those should be bi-partisan and in charge of oversight on honesty, if not in finance, at least in POLITICAL advertising.

I feel better now.  Thank you,

Harriett

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

senate webmail url: http://usgovinfo.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.lib.umich.edu/govdocs/congress/conemail.txt

senator and congress person url: http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/

 

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Family, Friends & You

Look in the mirror. We’ve grown fat and have no clothes …

My last email asked if any of you wanted to post what you were thinking with respect to the election. Here’s the first taker — wouldn’t you know it would be my husband! South African by birth but an American citizen and entrepreneur for some 30+ years, he has some advice that … well, the title gives you a hint …

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Family, Friends & You On Harriett's Mind

Why your “gut instinct” won’t work for this election…


I’m a big arbiter of “gut instinct.”  Even though we rationalize it at the time, the truth is that most of us make life-changing and financially-expensive personal decisions based upon our gut (which is usually driven by our emotions):  Your mate, your job, your home, your car, your confidants. After all, when something goes wrong, what do you frequently say? “I should have listened to my gut.”

Reckoning that our gut frequently does point us in the right direction, why shouldn’t a gut check work in this critical election? For one reason: this election is critical, and, for another, those candidates you’re watching and hearing about on TV are not who you think they are. You don’t know them.  They’re performers.  The real people you think you’re voting for shelved their true personnas. These are just actors on a stage, playing the character that their team has created in order to appeal to the most voters.  They’re going for a buffo box office, just like any other actor does.  “Be indignant.”  “Be funny.”  “Be sarcastic.”  “Be humble.” “Be a baiter.”  It’s in the script.

How, then, do you decide what’s real and what’s manipulation?  In this election, above all others, do yourself (and the rest of us) a favor and get the facts. Not innuendo. Not hearsay. Not what Mary who told Johnny who told Alice told you.  Not what you think is true, but what you know to be true.

Check out www.factcheck.org, a non-partisan site that is trying to keep our candidates honest and the rest of us truly aware by pointing out the facts from the falsehoods — in ads, circulating emails, ad infinitum.  I’ve been surprised that many of my assumptions were wrong, and I bet you will be too.

Invest some time in understanding the true issues for our country, the track record of the party, and the character of the people asking for your vote — rather than the character each candidate is playing.

Then, after November 4th, go back to depending on your “gut instinct” — in your personal life — where it really will play an important role.

Here’s to keeping up with all the stuff being thrown at us,

Harriett

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