Advertising Standards Council finds tar sands tasty

The Canadian Advertising Standards Council (ASC) thinks it’s just fine for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) to run advertisements describing tar sands as “essentially like yogurt,” dismissing a complaint by the Sierra Club of Canada.

Even though CAPP lost its nerve (or found some integrity) and withdrew the ad as soon as the Sierra Club lodged its complaint, the ASC still considered the Sierra Club’s objections and “the complaint was not upheld,” ASC Communications Manager Danielle Lefrançois said today.

Yet, if you look, feel or smell them in large or small amounts, tar sands don’t seem at all like a breakfast topping. “The recent deaths of ducks in (tar sand) tailings ponds clearly and accurately demonstrated the tailings are toxic and definitely not yogurt,” said John Bennett, Sierra Club Executive Director.

SCC alleged that CAPP had violated provision 1 of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards:

“(a) Advertisements must not contain inaccurate or deceptive claims…. […] the concern is not with the intent of the sender or precise legality of the presentation. Rather, the focus is on the message as received or perceived, i.e. the general impression conveyed by the advertisement.”

But, notwithstanding that tar sands are, uh, sandy and full of dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, mercury and poly aromatic hydrocarbons, CAPP and the people who set “standards” for Canadian advertising think the yogurt analogy is perfectly acceptable.

If this is the standard of accuracy deemed appropriate, it’s no wonder that many people are still confused about climate change.


Really. It’s well-known in advertising circles that the only way to compare two substances is to taste them. I wonder how that would turn out?