NoJetsTO says Porter Airlines ad is flighty

December 04, 2013  |  Chris Powell  |  Comments

Toronto grassroots organization NoJetsTO says it has filed a complaint with Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) over what it calls a “misleading” ad by Porter Airlines promoting its expansion plans for Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport (also known as Island Airport).

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The ad, which appeared in Saturday’s Toronto Star, urges Torontonians to contact their city councillor to voice their support for Porter’s plans to expand runways at the airport and add jets to its fleet as it looks to add more far-flung destinations to its 19 existing destinations in Eastern Canada and the U.S.

The ad by Wink Creative (with messaging done in-house by Porter) features an image of a tree with the CN Tower as its trunk and the branches featuring the names of current and future Porter destinations such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The accompanying text reads “We can’t grow without you. Call your City Councillor to make it happen.”

The body copy says that the “majority” of people in Toronto want Porter’s expansion plan to proceed. “If you don’t call, a minority who want to close the airport could end up deciding for us,” it reads.

NoJetsTO calls that assertion “patently false,” citing a recent phone survey conducted by the city indicating that 52% of residents think that an expanded airport with jets should not be part of the revised Island Airport.

The group also takes umbrage at Porter’s assertion that NoJetsTO wants to shut down the Island Airport, calling it “entirely false.” The group says that its intention is to preserve the current Island Airport and prevent it from being transformed into what it called “a Pearson-by-the-Lake,” a reference to Toronto’s international airport north of the city.

Porter spokesperson Brad Cicero said there is no validity to the characterization. “We’re in a position where we have to present our case based on facts; they happen to be in a position where they can present anything that they want that might cause people concern or dissuade them from considering our proposal fully,” he said. “They’re able to make wild allegations such as that that have no basis.”

Cicero said that at least 15,000 people have contacted their city councilor since Porter announced its expansion plans in the spring, “99%” of whom are “solidly in favour” of the plan. “It clearly shows there’s a desire for this to happen,” he said.

The ad ran in advance of a Thursday meeting of Toronto City Council’s Executive Committee, which will decide if the Porter proposal should be voted on by the full council on Dec. 16.

ASC president and CEO Linda Nagel could not confirm that the organization had received a complaint from NoJetsTO, saying it is not the organization’s policy to comment on individual complaints until they are fully adjudicated.

ASC assesses every complaint it receives and writes to the advertiser to request their comment on the merit of the complaint. The advertiser has 10 business days to respond, with the complaint heard at the next monthly meeting of the ASC council. Cicero said that the airline had not been contacted by ASC as of Wednesday morning.

• Canadians rank accuracy over offensiveness in ad complaints

According to its most recent Ad Complaints Report, ASC received 526 complaints about ads perceived to be misleading or inaccurate in 2012, 95 of which were upheld. The travel and accommodation category generated 30 complaints last year, six of which were upheld.

Cicero said that advertising would continue as long as the issue is before council.

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