Response to Press Release Stuns Regulatory Group

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WASHINGTON ( -- The advertising industry's self-regulatory arm got an unexpected view of the heated political climate when it issued a press release today saying it was scrutinizing advertising for Michael Moore's polemical documentary Fahrenheit 911.

The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus was concerned whether an ad for Fahrenheit 911 adequately displayed the film's rating information, but that was far from clear in a press release this morning that was simply following NAD's standard operating procedure.

No details
Headlined "Lions Gate Entertainment fails to provide substantive response regarding advertising for the movie 'Fahrenheit 911,'" the news release offered no details of the reason behind the scrutiny, saying only that the film's distributor, Lions Gate, hadn't adequately responded to NAD's request for information and was being given an additional 15 days to respond. The release went on to say that NAD's move was of its own accord and not the result of pressure from those critical of the anti-President Bush documentary.

Late today, a rueful NAD official made clear that the group hadn't foreseen the impact of a press release about a controversial film in the midst of the political campaign and made clear its probe had nothing to do with the ad's political content but the more mundane issue of proper disclosure of the film's R rating, for violence.

Accuracy of ads
NAD usually examines the accuracy and fairness of a marketer's advertising. Recent cases included KFC's health claims about its fried chicken, or claims by a marketer that its product is better than a rival's.

Usually a disclosure that it's looking into a company's ads isn't big news outside of business or industry trade publications. But today's news release prompted a barrage of media inquiries about whether NAD was stepping into a political minefield by attempting to review the accuracy of Mr. Moore's charges, at least as presented in the film's advertising.

Normal course of action
While NAD normally doesn't disclose any information about an investigation until it's resolved -- provided an advertiser agrees to let NAD hear the case -- NAD's normal course of action is to issue a release if an advertiser doesn't submit information, as is the case with Lions Gate.

Lions Gate did not return phone calls for comment.

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