The Development of Commercial Speech Doctrine
Advertising and public relations practitioners share many concerns about laws regulating the communication functions of both fields. However, there are distinct differences between the two as well. This chapter focuses on the development of the constitutional protections afforded speech that the courts have described as purely "commercial speech."
Clearly, most advertising of goods and services falls directly within the definition of pure commercial speech. Less clear is whether marketing/public relations efforts (e.g., a press release announcing a new product) by for-profit organizations come within the definition of pure commercial speech. Advertising and public relations speech not directly focused on a for-profit organization's goods or services (e.g., an advertisement in the local newspaper publicly thanking employees for community service efforts) is in an even more ambiguous position vis-à-vis its relation to pure commercial speech. Advertising and public relations speech advancing a social issue or discussing important public problems, and almost all speech by not-for-profit organizations, may not be classified as commercial speech at all, even if paid for. The major issues involving the status and degree of free speech protection for advertising and public relations efforts not clearly definable as pure commercial speech are discussed in subsequent chapters.
If you walk down the streets of colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, or Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, or you read one of the newspapers these reconstructed communities of the late 18th and early 19th centuries produce,