July 14, 2022

One Step Ahead

Contributed by FIFTEEN


Most clients think in terms of the finished product: how the redesigned website is going to look and function, the impact a new TV ad will have on business, or what news coverage will amount from the latest press conference. And if we’re doing our jobs at FIFTEEN correctly, that’s all they should be concerned about. The very existence of advertising agencies is based on producing work that’s so good and building trust that’s so implicit, clients can concentrate on running their businesses.

However, there’s a lot that goes into that website, TV spot and news conference clients may not necessarily know about, like making sure they meet government regulations, adhere to a set of professional standards, and don't claim to be something they're not. Today we’re going to pull back the curtain to show some behind-the-scenes considerations we take into account when producing work on behalf of our clients in order to protect their integrity and reputation.

  1. ADA Compliance. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act states that all private businesses must maintain an environment that’s accessible by all which has extended to websites over time. Captions on videos, pre-recorded audio descriptions and text magnification software are all ways we can ensure accessibility for all website users. Be sure to read our checklist or download the PDF that includes what websites need to be ADA compliant for more info.

  2. Copyright Laws. While it may seem incredibly tempting to use familiar music in your ad, you can also open yourself up to a world of trouble (and litigation). That’s because of those pesky things called copyright laws, which protect the original artist’s intellectual property. Even if a piece of music is part of the public domain, a recent recording of it might make the copyright still in effect. This means whoever uses it without permission could be held liable. Luckily, we have access to many royalty-free music options for our clients, like this catchy tune we used for a recent Rich’s spot.

  3. Contest and Sweepstakes Rules. Contests, giveaways, and sweepstakes are a great way to excite and engage your audience, but implementing them takes some careful planning and wording. First, you need to determine if you’ll be running a contest or a sweepstakes. Contests involve some skill and winners are chosen based on certain criteria, while sweepstakes winners are chosen at random. Then, there’s the standard no purchase necessary stipulation, and we haven't even talked about how rules can vary from state to state. With all of the contests AND sweepstakes we’ve run for Upstate Farms, Intense Milk and Bison Foods, it's safe to say we’ve got this down pat.

  4. Underwriting vs. Advertising. Depending on the product, service, target audience, and budget, we may recommend clients place spots on public radio or television broadcasting stations instead of traditional outlets, like the local NBC affiliate or Top 40 station. However, NPR and PBS have specific parameters content must fall within to consider it appropriate and within FCC standards. Using subjective language, explicit calls to action, and making unsubstantiated claims are all prohibited when it comes to underwriting. For example, while we cannot say a client’s pizza is “the cheesiest and most delicious,” we can say “it’s made with artisan cheeses and baked in a clay oven” or instead of “go to xyz website to request a quote today,” “request a quote at xyz website” is correct. Knowing all of these nuances only comes with knowledge and experience.

  5. Codes of Ethics. Yes, public relations practitioners have a bad rap of being “spin doctors;” alas, that’s a subject for another day. But did you know there’s actually a Code of Ethics all members of the Public Relations Society of America pledge to follow? The pledge encompasses values ranging from honesty to advocacy to independence. There are certain practices they simply won’t engage in, as innocent as the intent is. Want to send a journalist a free product in hopes he/she will write positively about it? How about providing some audience members with questions to ask at a town hall meeting to make sure certain talking points get brought up? Should you “forget” to mention you own stock or are on the board of a client’s competitor? Nope, nope and nope.

With all of these different guidelines, standards and codes to follow, it’s easy to see how “creativity” actually has a lot of parameters. It’s so important for businesses to work with experienced professionals who always have their best interests in mind.

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