Do You Have Questions About Election Advertising?

Adrian J Cotterill, Editor-in-Chief

Media Smart and the Advertising Association are renewing their awareness campaign ‘What’s the deal with political advertising?’ to help voters understand the ads by political parties they may see in the run up to the UK General Election. The campaign highlights a 10-point guide, freely available to download, which aims to improve political literacy, particularly among young people preparing to vote for the first time.

A 30” video creative, designed by Pearl & Dean Productions, part of CREATE at Pearl & Dean, will appear in Pearl & Dean cinemas and on BVOD on Channel 4, following clearance, subtitling, and delivery through Clearcast. Thought-provoking static executions of the campaign will feature on OOH with Open Media’s sites and from Next Gen Media in university accommodation and sixth form colleges. The industry has been urged to support with media inventory, where possible, to help maximise the awareness campaign and increase circulation of the guide.

Political parties will use advertising as part of their campaigning in the run up to the General Election on July 4, with national election spending limits recently increasing 80% to around £35M. Data released by UK advertising thinktank, Credos, shows 44% of people are concerned about political advertising, with people significantly less likely to trust political advertising (29%) than all/commercial advertising (39%). The research also highlighted that almost three quarters of people (73%) believe that political advertising should be subject to the same rules and regulations as other forms of advertising.

Rachel Barber-Mack, Executive Director, Media Smart, told us “Encouraging young voters to vote, and vote with confidence, is a key part of Media Smart’s mission in the run up to this General Election. Voters should be equipped to understand the messages they will see via advertising and this awareness campaign will help empower political literacy at this vital time.”

Media Smart, the advertising and media industry’s education programme, worked with youth focused creative agency, Livity, to produce the guide which answers questions on electoral advertising rules; digital and AI-generated content; misinformation and fact-checking; and how people can improve their political literacy. It also highlights how regulation around commercial advertising, subject to rules enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), differs to advertising by political parties.

Stephen Woodford, CEO, Advertising Association, said “The countdown to the ballot box is now on and while advertising by political parties is not subject to regulation by the ASA, I believe the advertising industry has a responsibility to educate voters about how the tools of our industry will be used during this time. This is only possible thanks to the generosity of industry partners providing media inventory to help share these resources and I encourage any media owners wishing to donate ad space to get in touch.”

Media Smart is the advertising and media industry’s award-winning education non-profit with a mission to ensure that every 7–21-year-old in the UK can confidently navigate the media they consume including being able to identify, interpret and critically evaluate all forms of advertising. The programme provides free educational resources for teachers, schools, parents/guardians and digital campaigns direct to its youth audience. Subjects include social media, digital advertising, political advertising, scam ads, greenwashing, body image, influencer marketing, creative careers and piracy which are delivered in the classroom, assembly, youth club or at home.

Media Smart also inspires – and provide pathways for – all young people to enter the working world of advertising and media, driven by their increased knowledge, understanding and curiosity about this industry landscape.

The supporter base brings together advertisers, agencies, media and trade bodies to support Media Smart’s mission.

Media Smart was incorporated into the Advertising Association in 2023.  

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