Letters, Nov. 10, 2008

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Attack ads must be monitored

Your story on comparative advertising ("Brand vs. Brand: Attack Ads on the Rise," AA, Oct. 27) hinted at an important, but unexplored dimension in the rise of comparative advertising: Are the ads truthful?

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus handles complaints from both competitors and consumers who believe a comparative ad is deceptive or misleading. NAD is the advertising industry's self-regulatory forum, and NAD examines advertising to assure that the claims made by advertisers are substantiated.

Since August, NAD has seen a 33% increase in challenges to advertising claims filed by competitors, and we anticipate that trend will continue.

In some of these cases, NAD may find the claims are fully substantiated; in others, NAD may request that the advertising be modified or discontinued. In all of these cases, NAD's work helps assure that companies willing to invest in the science necessary to support their advertising claims are not put at a disadvantage by competitors who unfairly claim product benefits or superiority without adequate support.

NAD's reputation for objectivity and the extensive voluntary compliance with its decisions is a great success story for the advertising industry.
C. Lee Peeler
National Advertising Review Council
New York

Subway ads prompt race discussion

RE: "You Might Be a Racist When ..." (AdAge.com, Oct. 31). There is no objective reality called "racist." There is only what I see and what you see and they are equally real. For me, the Subway ad is racist because it is sloppy and indifferent and incompetent in its use of black/urban cultural cues to promote its product. The problem with the ad was not that it sucked. The problem with the ad was that it never tried to be good. It never cared enough about the audience to try to be genuinely interesting, relevant or persuasive.

Could a more diverse creative team have done a better job? Undoubtedly. But so could an all-white team, as long as they cared enough to learn their audience, as long as they respected their audience enough not to assume they already knew everything they needed to know.

Contrary to popular opinion, the best advertising does not come from brilliant creative minds. (None were in evidence here.) It comes from well-informed creative minds. And if you don't have enough respect for your subject and your audience to become well-informed, then perhaps you're being racist, and so is your work.
Mark Robinson
Ridgefield, Conn.

Recently, at an Orlando Advertising Federation Ad2 event, I enjoyed a spirited and informative discussion with a young African-American professional who said that her culture possessed so many nuances, more than any other culture, that the only people who could truly understand and market to the segment were African-Americans. I have been thinking about that a lot since we spoke, and while I am not sure if she was 100% right, wrong or somewhere in the middle, this article rekindled the discussion in my mind and got me thinking.

According to the definition used in this post, racism is the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. By saying that you have to be African-American, for example, to market to African-Americans, aren't you racist? Or is that cultural bias?

With all the research that is out there to better understand a target audience, is it truly necessary to "be from" to "market to"?
Larry Meador
Lake Mary, Fla.

Print will make it through

RE: "Will Print Survive the Next Five Years?" (AA, Nov. 3). Print will survive the next five years and beyond quite handily. The intelligent content generated by print media is needed, desired and consumed by millions of people daily. Print media are evolving and will continue to evolve. In fact, traditional print-media forms are unlikely to disappear, at least not within the brief five-year time frame posited above.

Is Kindle the new print? Does Kindle imply the disappearance of print, or do we have to expand and/or revise our definition of print?

I expect we will still have our Ad Ages and New Yorkers to read on the train or the plane; they just may be "printed" on a different form of paper, more convenient than sculpted stone blocks, wax palettes, papyrus, carbon paper and the other media that have carried "print" over the years. Viva la printa!
Eugene Dewitt
Dewitt Media Strategies
New York
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