Toilet Paper Advertising Is More Honest Than Political Advertising

Writing on The Huffington Post, Sarah O’Leary makes the case that political advertising should be fact-checked:

Political advertising is the most important and persuasive weapon in a presidential campaign’s arsenal. Candidates, national committees and a variety of groups spend the vast majority of their war chest wealth, hundreds of millions of dollars, on TV, radio, Internet and print advertising. Allowing political advertising to proceed without even an eye batted by the advertising community, networks or government leads us freefalling down a treacherous abyss that will become even more disastrous over time. The ethical and moral corruption of a segment in the industry that cares for profit over ethos, networks that see dollar signs over accuracy and a government that seemingly couldn’t care less until there is public outrage is changing the face of our elections. For our nation’s sake, we must force our politicians and their advertisers to become, once and for all, politically correct.
In advertising, you have to tell the truth about consumer products and services or pay the expensive and often disastrous consequences. It seems only fair that those running for the highest office in the free world be held to the same standards as a tube of toothpaste.

Political advertising, as a form of political speech, is the most protected form of free speech there is. So I doubt you’ll ever see the ads held to a higher regulatory standard. Voters, just like they do when evaluating consumer products, have to make judgments in terms of which claims are true and which aren’t.
Besides, I won’t hold my breath for more regulation in political advertising. The simple truth is that politicians will always exempt themselves from regulations that they impose on other industries.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. Since when are toothpaste ads fact checked?

    The ethical and moral corruption of a segment in the industry that cares for profit over ethos…

    A segment? This is advertising we’re are talking about. Advertising mixed with politics. Winner take all. Loser go home.
    It’s not that I don’t agree with O’Leary. I do agree, but strident language bothers me. Especially when mixed with naiveté.
    p.s. If this were Europe, sure, then reform might be possible.

  2. Fact checks for toothpaste:
    1) Network clearance/continuity
    2) FTC grievances
    3) Arbitration between advertisers who are in a competitive ad situation–voluntary on their parts to avoid even more costly litigation
    Fact checks for political commercials:
    1) There is no continuity clearance for political spots, but they can be rejected as Fox and CNN recently did with an anti-Obama commercial done by a 527 group. The main campaign, though, is immune to such oversight
    2) Appeals to public, appeals to voters when an attack is a lie…hard and expensive to do
    David Axelrod, Obama’s media guy, told a story last year during Advertising Week. He showed a powerful side by side demo of two bullet-proof vests meant for troops in Iraq. The old one and the new one, just like new Cheer and old Cheer. The old one, it was demonstrated, failed to stop the bullet but the new one succeeded. The VO explained that Congressman So and So had voted against the new vest and therefore should be replaced by someone who had the troops best interests at heart. “Very powerful spot,” Axelrod said. “Only one problem: Congressman So and So voted for the new vests.” Everybody chuckled and they moved on to the next question. There is never enough time to correct lies in pol spots.
    As for the possible solution offered above by Mr. Burn, maybe the US can join the EU, adopt the Euro, ditch the first amendment, embrace the Napoleonic code, and–given the industry’s tussles with ROI and the Bottom Line and P/L–choose “ethos” (which ethos? oh any one will do) over profits since the latter seems to be dissipating anyway.

  3. I offered a solution?

  4. yeah—-immigration to europe…..
    but don’t focus the argument on your solution:
    the old “ignoratio elenchi” ploy

  5. I think the politically correct policing of advertising by the European Union is absurd. The post script above was meant as a wink.

  6. oh