$ for NARC

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National ad self-regulation is more than a "good cause." It renders valuable service to the industry. Now its sponsors propose that marketers who use the service to challenge ad claims pay a modest filing fee. It's a sensible, and overdue, step that should get wide backing.

The National Advertising Review Council, the governing body for the program, is seeking comment on the fee idea and on procedural changes designed to handle ad-claim complaints even faster. Under an "expedited" action plan, a decision by the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus could be handed down in as few as 15 business days if both advertisers involved in a claims dispute waived ordinary procedures.

Many of the changes, developed by a committee of advertisers, agencies and law firms, are most relevant for lawyers. But there's a message here for advertiser and agency CEOs, who must approve the corporate contributions that the NARC self-regulation program needs to exist.

The plan illustrates that NARC knows what matters to advertisers when they seek redress from false competitor claims-next to a fair decision maker, it is speed. NARC programs, already much less costly than going to court, will improve their existing speed advantage with these changes as well.

It also shows NARC is moving to address future funding needs and spread the cost of ad self-regulation among more companies. Most corporate support for NARC programs comes via business memberships in the national Council of Better Business Bureaus (the kids' ad program gets additional direct funding from advertisers). Yet about one-third of the ad challenges filed with the NAD are from companies that are not CBBB members. Under its filing fee proposals, CBBB member companies would pay $1,000 to file a challenge; non-members would pay $2,000. This is a beginning on building a better financial base for NARC.

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