CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Canadian Advertising Regulations

Business Studies
1 to 2 lessons
To investigate the restrictions and regulations in place for Canadian advertisers
Using a variety of online resources and using controversies over beer advertising as a launch point, students investigate Canadian advertising regulatory bodies and determine what people can do if they have a complaint about an advertisement.

Lesson Plan



Explain to students that, in Canada, there are several bodies in place to handle consumer complaints and/or regulate advertising. The Competition Act is the Canadian law that attempts to prevent false and misleading advertising. The Canadian Advertising Standards Council has the right to take a commercial off the air if it is considered inappropriate. Finally, advertisements for products or services regulated by the Canadian government (e.g., drugs, alcohol, children's products) have to be approved before they air and can also be pulled if complaints are made.

Create four posters and place each in a different area of the classroom.  The posters should be labelled: strongly agree, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat, strongly disagree. Have students move to the posters that best express their opinion for each of the following statements.

  • Businesses have a right to advertise any type of product they want.
  • Advertising should be regulated by the government.
  • Advertising to children and youths should be restricted.
  • If a product is dangerous, then a business should not be allowed to advertise it.

As students take their places, write the statement on the board. Ask at least one student in each group to share his or her opinion each time.

The Task

Direct students to the topic Selling Suds: The Beer Industry in Canada on the CBC Digital Archives website.  Explain that they will be investigating what "rules" are in place to handle advertising complaints, and what organizations exist to whom consumers can voice concerns. Have students view the clips "Are beer ads harmful?" and "Mad Dog Vachon beer controversy." As a class, discuss the issues raised about advertising a product like beer. Ask: What other products might cause similar reactions?

The Process

Students begin their work by viewing the clip "Are beer ads harmful?" as noted. Students will research online to locate the bodies or organizations that exist in Canada to regulate advertising and handle consumer complaints. In their online investigation, students should determine the following for each organization they research:

  1. Who are they?
  2. What sorts of members, if any, do they have?
  3. What sorts of complaints do they deal with?
  4. How many complaints have they received (if known)?
  5. What is the process for making a consumer complaint?
  6. What information does a consumer have to provide if he or she makes a complaint?
  7. What are the consequences of a complaint to the company if they are found to have done something inappropriate?


Ask students to write a paragraph in response to the question: Do you think these organizations provide sufficient regulation of advertising? Why or why not?

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