Advertisements must be truthful. This applies to advertisements from not for profit organizations as well. For instance, the application of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards (“Code”), which is administered by Advertising Standards Canada (“ASC”), includes advertising by organizations or institutions seeking to improve their public image or advance a point of view.
Over the past few years, a number of complaints against not for profits have been upheld by ASC. In the majority of the cases, the Accuracy and Clarity clause was contravened. Among other things, the Accuracy and Clarity clause provides that:
- Advertisements must not omit relevant information in a manner that, in the result, is deceptive
- Both in principle and practice, all advertising claims and representations must be supportable
- The advertiser must be clearly identified in an advocacy advertisement (which is defined as advertising which presents information or a point-of-view bearing on a publicly recognized controversial issue)
For example, in one case, a not for profit was found to have contravened the Accuracy and Clarity clause of the Code when it announced in a newspaper advertisement that it raised a certain sizeable amount of money from a telethon. ASC received a complaint that the amount of money was inaccurate, as the amount included monies generated from other fundraising events held throughout the year.
Other clauses contravened by not for profits over the past few years included Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals, Professional and Scientific Claims, and Superstition and Fears.
Before you finalize your advertising plans, consider reviewing it against the Code, or you may find yourself justifying your advertisement to a complainant or the ASC, and risk seeing your name in print for contravening the Code.