Honesty And Integrity In Advertising

by Andrew Frame

A recent issue of a U.S. Pop Culture magazine ran an article about two dropout homosexual adolescent friends that violently murdered the parents and eight year old brother of one of them. The article made a point of calling the song "Israel's Son" by Silverchair the "soundtrack" of the crime.

"Yeah, right," my midday guy said. "Blame the music. It's all the music's fault."

"No," I replied. "not the music's fault. But at this age, and with this lifestyle, music is certainly a very important factor in the mix. It's not the whole cake, but it's a very big part of the recipe." This music is our format, and even though he loves it, he had to agree.

What does this have to do with production? It's a matter of responsibility. We have degraded into a society that doesn't care about "the other guy." Say what you want, do what you want, regardless of effect. If "the other guy" can't deal with it...tough!

But, the interesting point is this: Take the same person, reverse the circumstances, and they are the first one to show a mighty thin skin and start screaming foul.

Does your copy "stretch" the facts? Do you have a client that offers a free/low price deal, and it's obviously a "sucker deal," one that never happens?

True example: a national photo chain promises a make-over, wardrobe changes, photo shoot, and a few other items for $10 to $25 depending on market size. What they don't tell you is that the photographs themselves cost almost $200. You don't walk out with anything for your $10 to $25. Nothing. Zip. It's a sucker deal.

Car dealers are always promising a price "thousands less than invoice." Which invoice? A long time automobile general sales manager client of mine told me there can be three or four invoices, from the original factory slip, all the way to what is stuck on the window before you buy the vehicle. And the amounts on them represent drastic price differences!

Obviously, when a dub comes in from another source, there is little you can do about the content. But, when it is in your power to control the content, show a little integrity. "Truth in advertising" isn't an outdated concept. And "truth" and "advertising" are not oxymorons.

Is your copy free from "sucker punch" deals? Can the written lines that make the offer, that state the price, that give the terms, stand up to the hot white light of honest scrutiny?

I've spent years working some clients out of such deceptive copy. I don't believe in, "It's not what you say, it's what you don't say."

People who find it "easier to ask forgiveness than ask permission" are gutless. Honesty and integrity are two of the most difficult things to obtain and maintain in the advertising community (and life), because the advertising community reflects the superficial aspects of society in general.

And that superficiality is deception in action. Avoid generalized statements. Ask the client to back up claims. Work with your salesperson to develop a creative, yet honest campaign for the client. (If a fair disclaimer takes longer to explain than the offer, rethink the project.) They'll get the sale, the client gets floor traffic, and you can sit back and feel good about another job well done. It's difficult, but doable.

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