For Its Own Sake, Adland Should Reconsider Political Advertising

'Why Wouldn't We Expect to Have the Same Level of Scrutiny Brought to Bear on Political Ads as There Are on Ads for Toothpaste or Frozen Peas?'

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My name is Rick Boyko, and I approved this message.

Last week I posted this note on Facebook: "After billions of dollars were wasted on terrible, misleading, ineffectual and not-factual advertising, I've voted. Beginning tomorrow, let's hope we can all begin to forge a new civil discourse that can move the country forward positively. We also have to demand that the rules for political advertising must be changed. I mean, why wouldn't we expect to have the same level of scrutiny brought to bear on political ads as there are on, say, an ad for toothpaste or frozen peas?"

The note instantly sparked a debate. This is a discussion that we need to start now, before another election cycle. What can we do to stop all of the negative and misleading advertising?

It amazes me that to make any superlative claim for any product that airs on network TV, you have to provide substantiation from 85% of the market. So if it takes that much legwork, background checking and documentation to prove a yogurt has more fruit at the bottom, it stands to reason that we should be able to expect a similar level of authenticity for our politicians' claims beyond "I approve of this message."

Of course the key issue here is the First Amendment. Freedom of speech is always used to defend the negative, deceptive claims found in political advertising. But I can't help thinking, something's got to give.

As individuals and as an industry, we should demand better. Surely there's something we can do. Limit the spending. Limit the amount of time campaigns can advertise. Prescreen the ads.

Whatever the answer, our industry should be outraged and should act. Not just because of the volume of terrible communications being generated. Not because of the billions of ad dollars being wasted. Not even because everyone hates all the negative advertising. No, the reason we should act is because the public -- the very people we've spent our careers trying to reach with truthful and meaningful communications to earn their trust and loyalty -- believe the crap that has saturated the airwaves these past six months comes from us.

The public is unaware that political advertising comes from specialists.

To them, it's just advertising -- a profession we deserve to defend and be proud of .

I suggest we band together and act with haste, because there are just over 1,100 days left until we hear "I approved this message" once again.

Rick Boyko, former director and professor at the VCU Brandcenter, is the founding member of the Leadership Collective,
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