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Advertising Standards Canada Announces New Interpretation Guideline to the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards re Motor Vehicle Advertising

Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) maintains the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards (Code), the principal instrument of advertising self-regulation in Canada. The Code sets the standards for acceptable advertising and forms the basis for receipt and review of consumers’ complaints about Canadian advertising. The Code is augmented by Interpretation Guidelines that are designed to enhance industry and public understanding of the interpretation and application of the clauses of the Code.

On September 24, 2009, ASC published and implemented Interpretation Guideline #4 – Alleged Infractions of Clauses #10 or #14: Motor Vehicle Advertising. The Guideline was developed to help ensure that motor vehicle advertisements are created to comply with the spirit of Canadian road safety laws. It includes eight broad principles, in the form of questions, which will provide guidance to motor vehicle manufacturers and their advertising agencies in the production of advertising that is creative and effective, while respecting road safety concerns and conforming to the Code. The Guideline encompasses such issues as speeding, aggressive and unsafe behaviour, and depictions of races or competitions.

Developed by a working group, the motor vehicle advertising guideline initiative was led by the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ), in conjunction with ASC, the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers of Canada, the Association of Canadian Advertisers and the Association des agences de publicité du Québec.

The working group was convened following the adoption of legislative provisions obligating the SAAQ to “in collaboration with automobile manufacturers, advertising agencies and highway safety stakeholders …establish guidelines aimed at prohibiting any advertisement that portrays a road vehicle and conveys a careless attitude with respect to road safety by presenting situations that encourage reckless, dangerous or prohibited practices or behaviour.” The auto advertising issue was of interest to other Canadian jurisdictions, several of whom joined the working group (Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon and Transport Canada.) The working group’s adoption of the Guideline was supported by all Canadian jurisdictions. The positive cooperation from the other stakeholders meant that the guidelines could be built on the existing self-regulatory structure, thereby avoiding the need to adopt more binding measures.

Click here for the new Guideline.