ASC exaggerates for truth

Advertising Standards Canada rolls out a cheeky new campaign, developed by Cossette.

The truth? Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) thinks Canadians can handle the truth and it’s speaking with tongue in cheek to acknowledge “Truth in Advertising Matters.”
The new campaign for ASC (the ad industry’s national self-regulatory body) was developed pro bono by Cossette, and kicked off in November with a TV ad depicting a teenager caught sneaking out of the house at night.
A sign appears, suggesting she was actually on her way to the library, a story embellished by the appearance of a song and dance act.
“The strategy is to get the public’s attention with purposefully exaggerated situations to make the point that dressing them up doesn’t make them true, and let people know that truth in advertising is as important to the industry as it is to the public,” says Janet Feasby, VP, standards, ASC. “It’s certainly a departure from what we’ve done in the past.”
Running nationally in French and English, the effort also includes radio, as well as print and OOH featuring outlandish statements, like “ A poodle’s venom glands are situated just behind its ears,” complemented by cartoony illustrations. We asked ad gurus Ian MacKellar, CD at Bensimon Byrne, and Nathan Rosenberg, chief marketing officer at Virgin Mobile Canada, to tell us the truth about whether or not this campaign services ASC’s mandate to maintain Canadians’ confidence in advertising.           

Overall strategy
MacKellar:  I’ve always been a strong supporter of the ASC mandate – except of course when they’ve unexpectedly rejected a script I’ve written. That said, I find the notion of the ASC being the “champion of truth” a credible strategic area for the brand to reside.
Rosenberg: I say good on the ASC for taking a chance on a friendlier, edgier approach here. The humour is insightfully attention-grabbing and really drives home the message in the TV and radio spots. 

Creative elements
MacKellar: I put message clarity high up on my list of expectations when evaluating work.When I looked through all the creative elements, I must be honest, I was a bit confused. The line “dressing it up doesn’t make it true” may be the source of my confusion. I’m not really sure what this means. I buy into the rallying cry “truth in advertising matters” but I struggle a bit with the way it has come to life creatively.
Rosenberg: Overall, the message is effective, straightforward and easy to digest. Some of the executions are more successful at getting the message across than others. The copy in the print ads is almost confusing because the tagline isn’t prominent enough and the message gets lost. It forces the need to be familiar with the other executions to understand it. Ideally each element should be able to stand on its own. The fairy tale imagery in the print creative doesn’t connect. It feels more like fantasy as opposed to something that the audience can really relate to.

Truth be told…
MacKellar: The work is absolutely different in approach and tone than previous campaigns, but I wonder if by overly dramatizing the “dressing up” part at the expense of the “truth” part, that the public may miss out on the intended message or, for that matter, the intended messenger.
Rosenberg: The more relatable tone is a step in the right direction. The message gets out there, but I think the attempt to be “fun” almost backfires in a way that makes the ASC seem like it’s dressing up its own message. It needs more opportunities for people to engage. Let people edit their own campaign messages; show examples of how deceptive advertising affects Canadians; add some simply worded proof points on what the standards and principles of the ASC are and, most importantly, why it should matter to them.

MacKellar: The online experience was most effective in outlining the ASC mandate and its role in keeping the advertising industry, politicians and anyone with something to say or sell, honest. The site isn’t particularly deep in engagement, but what it lacks in depth it more than makes up for in clarity of messaging.
Rosenberg: I don’t see the link between the campaign creative and the microsite. The jump from real-life photography to animation feels disjointed and looks a bit too frivolous for me considering the nature of the site. Plus, a pet peeve of mine, the microsite forces viewers to sit through the whole animated intro. It’s crucial to give people instant access to information.