At some point when I was fairly young, I was excited to learn about the concept of "truth in advertising" - the notion that it actually matters whether what you say in a public announcement or description of products or services is true or not. I was even more excited to learn that there was an official government entity (in the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission) empowered to enforce truth in advertising standards, and punish those who would dare publish falsehoods. It totally knocked my socks off to further learn that ordinary citizens could submit claims of false advertising and compel advertisers to change or withdraw their deceptive advertising pieces.
What a world of pure and unflinching justice we could then live in! To walk around knowing that the slogans and invitations on billboards, newspaper ads and television were all required by law to be true, and that onerous fines and the shame of the public eye awaited the occasional miscreant who would stray from this noble code. No need to worry about being deceived or misled as a consumer; we could always have confidence that advertisers would stand by their claims.
Like I said, I was young.
But at the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, I do think there's been a notable shift in the standards we hold marketers and public figures to when it comes to truth in advertising. Seems like somewhere around the mid 1990's, we kind of gave up on it.
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