During my time in the advertising industry I was adamant that “Truth in Advertising” was my highest priority when working for clients. The thought of misrepresenting something and using the always-famous “bait and switch” approach, especially when I was working with car dealerships, was something I desperately did not want to be associated with in any way.
Truth. That was my ultimate goal.
I knew then as I still do now that advertising is sales. Truth is bent to the closest edge of the mountain to eventually convince someone they need what you are offering.
Politics is sales.
It is the most basic, gut wrenching, manipulative type of sales. Even though it is cutthroat, it doesn’t excuse anyone from leaving the basic tenet of “Truth”.
We were taught as small children (and teach our own children, hopefully) that truth is the basis of everything. You can’t have a friendship or any type of relationship without truth.
A sign hangs in my children’s school that defines ‘Honesty’ as: “The quality of being truthful, sincere, upright, and fair; free from deceit or fraud. Always speak the truth.”
The sign also has a quote from William Shakespeare: “I know thou’rt full of love and honesty, and weigh’st thy words before thoug giv’st them breath.” Today’s translation: I know you are full of love and honesty and you think about words before you say them.
Truth grows trust.
Truth reflects character. So does the lack of truth.
So why is it that during the highly charged, emotion driven period of an election we throw truth and the character is represents, right out the window with political advertising?
We have gone so far away from seriousness of truth and its essential place in elections that printing companies are building ad campaigns around our acceptance of lies. BBDO Advertising did a wonderful job on the following ad for FedEx titled “Candidates”. It pretty much says it all:
What is even more disturbing is our own sitting President excuses the behavior of abandoning truth.
Recently in a “60 Minutes” interview on CBS, President Obama said, “Do we see sometimes us going overboard in our campaign, are there mistakes that are made, areas where there is no doubt that somebody could dispute how we are presenting things? You know, that happens in politics,” Obama said.
Everyone knows it does, he is correct, but should we continue to approve of it? Should the office of the President of the United State condone it?
Today with not only the actual campaigns producing commercials but with the insurgence of Political Action Committees (PACs) how can anyone monitor and manage “truth in advertising”? Even though the advertising produced by the campaigns has to have the candidate state in their own voice that they approve of the ad, it doesn’t testify to truthfulness.
Hearing a candidates voice at the end of a commercial caused me to question recently, did you really approve this ad or have you given your creative team a blanket approval for all ads? If candidates approve their ads knowing they are misleading and not factual, how can we trust their character once they are in office?
This sounds incredibly Polly Anna, I know. But as citizens and people who base our own business practices and social relationships on trust and truth, should we allow candidates to blatantly lie? Really, how many people fact check things?
Advertising is advertising in my opinion. One type of ‘product’ doesn’t get a pass from truth over another ‘product’.
In all my years of working in advertising agencies and then as an in-house advertising person, if I had presented any product I was representing in a bad light or in an untrue manner I would have been fired.
When I was writing copy for a local fitness center, if I had said a woman would lose 20 pounds in her first month of working out with us and it didn’t happen, I would have been fired and the company would have been sued. Why do you think all of the weight loss advertisements tell us, “Results not typical”?
Yet we don’t hold politicians to task on the things they say about themselves, or hold them accountable for backing up claims against their opponents.
Maybe along with their verbal approval on ads, we should include in writing on the screen “results of candidate and reliability of claims against opponents are not guaranteed” just to cover themselves.
Certainly resurgence in “Truth in (Political) Advertising” won’t change this election cycle. But what if we stood up and raised the bar of our expectations and started speaking out against the ugly advertising and unsubstantiated claims made throughout election advertisements? It would be refreshing to have presidential character and campaigns that didn’t endorse “overboard” advertisements and claims, which could be disputed.
Character does count.