The Lithuanian Chapter of the International Advertising Association (IAA) invited representatives of the advertising industry, media, Parliament and government to the Vilnius Town Hall for a forum titled "Ethics in Advertising" on April 3.
The guest star of the forum was Archbishop John Foley, adviser for the Vatican's public relations. Similar forums with Foley, elite in spheres of local business, journalism and politics, occurred in Warsaw, Prague and Budapest recently where his speeches made front page news, said Otto Baumrucker of the IAA.
"Lithuania is a country of Catholic traditions. It is good that representatives of advertising, mass media and politics are interested in Foley's views on the ethics of advertising," Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said.
Foley spoke and did many interviews before and after the forum. The Philadelphia-born Foley was a journalist and an editor for various Catholic newspapers, TV and radio programs in the United States.
"I love advertising. I especially enjoy advertising that is inspiring, witty and tasteful," Foley said.
He emphasized that advertising is the life-blood of media and a vital component of freedom of speech. At the same time, Foley stressed ethical principles of advertising like truthfulness and human dignity.
Foley described advertising as an art form but said that ads should be informative. For example, an ideal jeans ad should accent their price and quality, according to Foley.
Foley also called on the government to regulate advertising directed "at groups particularly vulnerable to exploitation, such as children and older consumers."
He spoke against using images of persons without their permission. Foley spoke about an ad he has seen in Hungary as an example of bad taste. Pope John Paul II was portrayed on the poster advertising the RTL TV channel there.
The forum's audience expressed their opinion about the Vatican's view on advertising presented by Foley. Kubilius said that commercial and political advertising should be truthful, otherwise it has only a short-term effect.
"It is important to know the Vatican's position towards advertising. In Lithuania people have just started to talk about ethics in advertising. It is a new topic. At the moment it seems that there is no regulation of advertising and some structure which rules the situation should exist," Gediminas Jaunius from the music studio Musica Aeternitatis said.
"Advertising in Lithuania could be better and more creative. There should be a little control [about] what is advertised, where and how. Sometimes you do not know what advertising is about. I feel that some rules would be good, bearing in mind alcohol advertisements and the amount of advertising on TV," designer Jurate Racinskaite said.
Raimondas Sestakauskas, director of the Lithuanian chapter of the IAA, said that his organization encourages the idea of advertising self-regulation within a statutory framework.
Lithuanian advertising agencies and media have already voluntarily acknowledged the International Code of Advertising Practice. This code demands that advertising be legal, honest, decent and truthful. So far, Lithuania has had no complaint-handling system about dishonest ads, but such a bureau is being set up now, representatives of the Lithuanian IAA said.