Laws applying to TV advertising ?, circa 1967-1977

I recall two shifts in what was likely to appear in a TV commercial between my childhood and the time I graduated from high school. Now, it’s entirely possible that nothing in particular happened except a shift in tastes and cultural trends, but somehow I got the impression that something legally binding had happened to precipitate each change, and, if so, and (of course) if anyone knows anything about them, I’m curious to know the back-story.
a) Mentioning your Competitor by Name — when I was a kid, no one ever spoke the competition’s brand name or product out loud, or showed it in the commercial. It was “Brand X”. It was “pink pad”. It was “leading paper towel”. Suddenly, that changed: let’s compare Ajax to Comet. Taste: do you prefer Coke or Pepsi? Hey, an Infiniti blows away a BMW on this track! Etc. So… was it previously considered illegal (or against network policy, etc) to mention or show some other commercial product and say disparaging things about it, and then a legal or admin decision freed them up to start doing so?

b) Having to be Careful what you Claim — when I was a kid, there didn’t seem to be much in the way of restrictions on what you could claim in a commercial in order to sell your wares. Eat a bowl of our cereal each day and it will keep the bullies away. Our cookies are made by elves in a hollow tree, not in a factory. LIghtning’s brighter when you chew our gum. But also less fanciful stuff that was apparently intended to be taken seriously, yet was somewhere between questionable and impossible. (No really compelling example comes to mind, and I don’t want the thread to hijack along those lines anyhow). Anyway, it looked like the new rule was “you can say anything you like, including about your competitor or your competitor’s product, as long as it is true, but can the bullshit”. Claims became more cautious. And even the frivolous whimsical claims mostly disappeared, or were modified along the lines of “some people even say that ___” (;)). So … a truth-in-advertising legal decision or policy? If so, was it related to the first one, assuming both phenomena existed as legal or policy decisions?

Societe Comptoir de L’Industrie Cotonniere Etablissements v. Alexander’s Dept. Stores, Inc., 299 F.2d 33 (C.A.N.Y., 1962). Held that interest of consumer in competitive prices of garments using ‘Dior’ designs without deception as to origin was at least as great as interest of corporations in monopolizing such name as owners of registered trademarks ‘Dior’ and ‘Christian Dior’, and defendant would not be temporarily enjoined from using such trademarks to promote sale of its garments as copies.

The “We’re better than the other leading brands” vs “We’re better than Coke” is simply due to a change in advertising philosophy. Lots of ad people believe that mentioning your competitor, even when you say your better than the competitor, is just free advertising for your competitor. I’d say most ad people still believe this, but advertising has gotten so much bigger and there are so many more ads that nowadays the few mavericks stand out more.

There’s no legal problem mentioning your competitors, and never has been, unless you say something untrue. And since “Pepsi tastes better than Coke” is an opinion, Coke can’t do anything.

I asked that same question here a while ago. The change to mentioning competitors by name seemed to be rather abrupt and I assumed it was from some specific rule or law but people replied just like Lemur866 and said it was just a dominate idea change. Maybe there was some study associated with it though

I’m in the commercial business. One reason the claims are more cautious doesn’t have as much to do with a change in rules than with the more litigious society we live in.

Walter Carlson, “Advertising: What Happened to Brand X?” New York Times, Nov. 4, 1965, p. 69.

What **Shagnasty ** and Lemur866 said. I think there may also have been a bit more bravery once the commercial speech cases came down. While I’m not aware of any statutes or regulations (I haven’t specifically tried to look this up in a very long time) just the idea that the First Amendment definitely applied to commercial speech may have had an influence. Then again, the commercial speech cases and the changes in advertising may both actually have been the result of broader societal changes.

Truth in advertising has been around since the first part of the last century (around 1919–as federal law; states probably had regulations before that). I suspect the change here was in enforcement priorities, and later, as Doug Bowe notes, more lawsuits.

Excellent find. That’s definitely another part of it. Broadcasting codes (industry imposed) were a lot more restrictive before the 70s. Feminine hygiene product ads weren’t permitted in broacast advertising until 1972, the National Association of Broadcasters removed its ban on television advertising of sanitary napkins, tampons, and douches.