Advocacy advertising is often characterised by parties having differing views that are expressed in robust terms. This is especially so when there is proposed legislation or a referendum on an issue. Examples include abortion, fluoridation, immunisation and legalisation of marijuana. Government advertising on a range of health and safety initiatives are also likely to be advocacy advertising. The right to freedom of expression under Section 14 of the Bill of Rights Act is acknowledged, but the appropriateness of advocacy advertising is also guided by Rule 11 of the Advertising Code of Ethics:
Rule 11: Advocacy Advertising – Expression of opinion in advocacy advertising is an essential and desirable part of the functioning of a democratic society. Therefore such opinions may be robust. However, opinion should be clearly distinguishable from factual information. The identity of an advertiser in matters of public interest or political issue should be clear.
The Advertising Standards Authority provides Guidance Notes to assist the industry and consumers to interpret the Advertising Codes of Practice, and has just released a Guidance Note on Advocacy Advertising.