A page ad he bought in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal the day after the Nov. 8 election bemoaned the state of political advertising. Readers were invited to respond to the idea of creating a panel of ad and media executives to screen political ads.
Now, after 2,000 replies to the ad, written by Jerry Della Femina, president of Jerry & Ketchum, New York, Mr. Alvarez instead hopes to craft a code of ethics that would be approved by the three ad industry trade groups.
"I'd like political advertising to be held up to the same standards as other advertising-no lies, no disparagement," said Mr. Alvarez, a board member at the American Association of Advertising Agencies.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Ron Klink (D., Pa.) confirmed talks with Mr. Alvarez on the subject, and said Rep. Klink may sponsor legislation to prevent political ads from using blatant untruths.
Mr. Alvarez said the legal protections afforded political advertising made consideration of a screening panel pointless. Unlike commercial speech, which is only partially protected, political or non-commercial speech enjoys virtually blanket protection from restriction or regulation.
Mr. Alvarez said the Four A's executive commit- tee will consider a draft code in January. If the draft passes that test, it then would be put before the group's board, probably in February. Assuming board approval, the proposal would then be taken to the Association of National Advertisers and American Advertising Federation for their endorsement.
Bill Hamilton, chairman of the American Association of Political Consultants, welcomed the efforts of Mr. Alvarez and his compatriots, but only to a point.
"We have a code of ethics that doesn't have teeth-for legal reasons-but that steers consultants away from untruths," Mr. Hamilton said. "Anything beyond addressing truth and untruths or those things and we run up against the U.S. Constitution."