The graphic looks like something Lewis Carroll dreamed-up when he was flying through a particularly exotic drug-flashback. There’s a unicorn, a Shirley Temple-type squished into a flower pot, a viking wielding a lollypop and three-tiered cakes floating in the clouds. Bouncy music and a solid, mother-knows-best voice tells us that since advertising is about telling stories, truth in those stories is vital. “Dressing it up doesn’t make it true” says the banner draping the flashback.

The earnest body copy explains that “ASC [Advertising Standards Canada] helps protect Canadians from false messaging in advertising. Because among all the pretty words and pictures – truth matters.”

Indeed it does. Truth shapes our lives, informs the decisions we make and is the basis of trust. Without truth – and the transparency it requires – our way of life would be impossible.

Advertisers recognize this, which is why 150 of them (ASC members) have backed the truth-in-advertising campaign. While common practices in the ad business like hyperbole, bait-and-switch, insincerity, quantity limitations, spurious comparisons and on and on seem to undermine the authenticity of the ASC campaign, I’m not especially concerned about hypocrisy among the touts.

But if truth matters in the ads, doesn’t it matter in the stuff that appears around the ads? Shouldn’t editorial content aspire to the same level of honesty demanded by the ASC?



The second in a Dispatches series on old ideas like media impartiality and independence | Read the first in this two-part series