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NARC Now ASRC, Still Policing Ad Industry For Integrity

Published on April 23, 2012

The 40-year-old National Advertising Review Council (NARC), founded in 1971, is now the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (ASRC). The rebranded organization has not missed a day of work, but its new identity is live at www.asrcreviews.org.

But “Do you now what NARC is and what it does?” asked Ad Age. “Don’t feel bad if the answer is no.” Ad Age described a “perennial lack of awareness” in Washington and on Madison Avenue, and the organization felt that the moniker Advertising Self-Regulatory Council would be far more clear.

Too bad: NARC was a pretty bold acronym to begin with (it is of course the shortened version of “narcotics officer”). But it was not one the NARC board necessarily liked. Nancy Hill, president-CEO of the American Association of Advertising Agencies and an ASRC board member told Ad Age "It has the connotation of people undercover, spying on drug dealers—and that's not at all what we do.”

Still, “This strong, bold brand recognizes the industry's commitment to self-regulation and the comprehensive scope of self-regulatory activities – the growing number of programs and services, the broad reach of decisions and the expanded industry representation on the ASRC Board of Directors," said Eric Mower, Chairman of the ASRC Board of Directors and Chairman and CEO of Eric Mower and Associates.

The new brand was developed pro bono by Leo Burnett USA, and comes as the self-regulatory system marks a 40-year partnership between the advertising industry and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) to provide objective third-party oversight of advertising practices.

Still - What Does ASRC do?
"The notion that advertisers could or would self-regulate was greeted with some skepticism in 1971. Since that time, however, the industry has consistently demonstrated its commitment to the establishment and enforcement of strong, meaningful standards," said C. Lee Peeler, President and CEO of ASRC.

ASRC sets the policies and procedures for advertising industry self-regulation programs. In 2009, the Board of Directors expanded beyond its founding partners – 4As, American Advertising Federation (AAF), Association of National Advertisers, (ANA), and CBBB – to include the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). The CBBB serves as the third-party administrator of a self-regulatory system that now includes:

  • National Advertising Division (NAD), 1971
  • National Advertising Review Board (NARB), 1971
  • The Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU), 1974
  • The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP), 2004
  • The NAD/CRN Initiative, 2006
  • The Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program, 2010

These programs examine the truth and accuracy of advertising claims, the appropriateness of children's advertising practices and, in the case of the Accountability Program, promote compliance with the advertising industry's self-regulatory standards.

Both the ERSP program and the NAD/CRN Initiative began at the request of a specific industry segment for ASRC-led oversight. ERSP was launched in partnership with the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) and examines core advertising claims communicated through direct-response advertising. The NAD/CRN Initiative began at the request of the Council for Responsible Nutrition and examines the truth and accuracy of advertising claims made for dietary supplements.

The Accountability Program – the most recent self-regulatory program – was developed at the urging of a cross-industry coalition of trade associations. The Accountability Program reviews compliance with the industry-accepted principles for online behavioral advertising (OBA), focuses on transparency and consumer-control issues and monitors companies that may be engaged in OBA.

"Industry support is as critical now as it was in 1971," said Mr. Mower. "Our industry has always faced challenges – new technologies, societal and cultural sensitivities, legislative and regulatory scrutiny. And as we meet each challenge, we must demonstrate to consumers that we are focused on their concerns. The best demonstration is effective self-regulation."