Here’s a head-scratcher. Canada’s non-profit, self-regulating Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) is currently re-running their 2010 “Truth in Advertising Matters” campaign.

Now admittedly, working for any industry association is tricky. Have a look at the TV version, if you haven’t seen it:

My issue isn’t with the creative. Hey, the French love Jerry Lewis. And I think some of Jerry Lewis’ work is brilliant, but let’s not digress. Before you stop reading this, have a look at the ASC’s website link associated with for the campaign—definitely more inspired, once you get by the ‘what advertising is’ primer, which must be for consumers that have never seen advertising before.

No, my biggest issue is with the strategy:

Who is the client? The Canadian advertising industry.

Who is the target group? Based on where this campaign runs, it’s the Canadian public.

What’s the message? Truth in advertising matters.

Does the average Canadian really need to be told that truth matters, in advertising or anywhere else? What are Canadians to do with this new knowledge? Most pure advocacy campaigns have some call to action, but not this one. Wait a minute—do you think the purpose here is to get more consumers to register complaints with the ASC over false advertising, which would presumably be done by someone other than one of the ASC’s 160 members? To borrow a line from this campaign, dressing up a bad or unclear strategy doesn’t make it work.

A closer look at the main website for the ASC provides a bit more information:

  • yes, the target group really is all Canadians
  • there’s a student competition for new creative to launch in 2014

Look to a country where the marketing and advertising industry has a much better reputation than ours, and you will see an advertising standards strategy that is simple, clear and based on action:

The Canadian advertising industry considers itself capable of greatness, and it is. It also believes its greatness is often trampled upon by the client, yet this is the best it can do when it is the client?