Truth or Dare

By Sg Published on .

Before you get all worried over every phrase and sketch you produce, there's a modicum of comfort in the fact that most advertising passes through what WestWayne's Luke Sullivan calls "a gauntlet of people who are paid to find something wrong with it." This not only includes a "phalanx of client lawyers" but TV network representatives as well. Print and radio ads undergo a similar process. Often, claims must be substantiated and viable research produced. Avoiding `smear' messages that target competitors is one of the goals here. "Competitive advertising, in which you illustrate your product's superiority by example, is much more effective than negative campaigns," believes Sullivan. Not only may you be facing a lawsuit, but a backlash from consumers as well. "Companies are their own best watchdog."

So, what's a copywriter or art director to do? If you're really concerned, you can purchase a CD-ROM from the NAD (212-705-0122); for a mere $5200, you can get information on each NAD case, every appeal before the National Advertising Review Board (NARB), and all Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) activity reports from 1972 on. The Better Business Bureau has a Website ( that discusses various terms such as `free,' `going out of business,' and `new.' The FDC, FDA, CARU and other organizations also offer reams of guidelines.

Or you can just not worry about it all that much. "We're crafters of images and words, not product managers or legal minds," observes Sullivan. "We should be given the right information and go from there."

The most important thing, says Andy Berlin, is "to follow your own heart and brain. Go with your conscience; if it feels right, it usually is," although it's best to keep your eyes and ears open for possible prevarications.

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