TRUTH IS NOT UNFAIR; FTC'S HEAVY BURDEN;SETTING FACTS STRAIGHT; PBS ON THE HIGHWAY

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It would seem, or so Ad Age tells me, that truthful advertising can soon be called "unfair," and that "unfair" advertising, albeit truthful, will soon be banned by three FTC commissioners (AA, March 14).

I'm appalled. If truthful, the "fault" to cause advertising to be "unfair" must lie in: (1) the audience to which it is directed (i.e., children, the elderly, the uninformed); (2) the product advertised (i.e., cigarettes, or perhaps Big Macs); or (3) the weight of the advertising-the fear that big budgets create monopoly.

For the sake of argument, let's concede. ... But who is to have the life/death power to rule that truthful information will be denied, that a lawful product category must die, or that strong brands, because they are heavily advertised, must be handcuffed?

Who is to decide? Maybe a constitutionally constrained Congress. But surely not an appointed, even if well meaning, lesser federal agency-the FTC.

While the "unfairness" deed may now be done, wisdom cannot lie in "going along." Truthful advertising can't be unfair. That is bedrock. Advertising Age, it seems to me, as well as the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, should hold to it.

Peter Allport

Bronxville, N.Y.

Editor's note: Mr. Allport is a former president of the Association of National Advertisers.

To Wally Snyder and Bruce Silverglade: Hey, fellers, whatever happened to the First Amendment? Your otherwise well-presented views on "unfairness" in the hands of the Federal Trade Commission (Forum, AA, March 28) have seemingly forgotten that it exists-and will dominate anything the commission might seek to do by way of applying it in any particular case.

As well established by now, when advertising is neither false nor misleading, which is what we are talking about, government cannot restrict it unless (1) there is a substantial governmental interest in doing so, (2) the chosen restriction directly advances that interest and (3) the restriction is narrowly tailored to both of the above.

And the FTC would bear a heavy burden of judicially satisfying that every one of the above three prerequisites exists in the circumstances of any specific case brought for enforcement under any rule or guideline.

Gilbert H. Weil

Weil, Guttman & Malkin

New York

Editor's note: Mr. Weill is counsel to the Association of National Advertisers.

I must dispute some of the numbers reported as fact in the article "Turner automates ad buys for agencies" (AA, March 21). First, Donovan Data Systems only handles 14 of the top 25 advertising agency national broadcast accounts, not 18. Second, they only handle about 52% of those dollars, not the 70% quoted in the article. These facts are based on nationally published media billing numbers and Donovan's own client list.

My firm is a competitor to Donovan that services three of the top 25 agencies. Two of them came over from Donovan.

Ronald B. Levy

VP, Datatech Software Corp.

Fort Lee, N.J.

Newton Minnow is right on-as usual-in his analysis and suggestions regarding the traffic, roadblocks and opportunities on the high tech information superhighway (AA, March 21).

No one could be more knowledgeable than this superb attorney, former FCC and PBS chair. I oughta know, having been a client of his law firm at one major marketer, two ad agencies-as well as serving on the PBS board. ...

As a former brand and advertising manager and a former ad agency ceo, I underline the importance of Minow's analysis-and appeal. It is critical to all of us in business to be certain that a balanced menu of choices be appropriately supported, whether by advertiser, viewers/listeners and potential ones, via an evenhanded cost/benefit basis, or (preferably) by a combination of all. Non-commercial broadcast media are essential to the enhanced enlightenment of all, regardless of age, education and motivation.

Advertisers and their agencies will do well to support public broadcasting's essential service to all Americans on the information superhighway.

George Gruenwald

Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

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