2020 Election & Referenda Advertising

Please download our full guide here – ASA Guide on Election and Referenda Advertising August 2020.  This includes details on rules that are often referred to in complaints about election or referenda advertisements, a guide on jurisdictions, guidelines on how to complain, as well as recent decisions and guidance on code interpretation. 

The Advertising Standards Authority has been dealing with election and advocacy advertising since the early 1990’s. Election and 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 or during a General Election.  The ASA has a substantial body of precedent decisions. While these are not binding on the Boards today, they help inform decision-making and support consistency. In New Zealand, the Bill of Rights Act protects free speech.  This right is not absolute, and the Advertising Standards Code is one of the fetters on that right.

2020 Election Advertising

From 16 March 2020, the ASA will focus on dealing with complaints about paid election advertising in media not covered by the Broadcasting Standards Authority Election Programmes Code. This includes paid digital advertisements, paid communications from social media platforms (including boosted or sponsored posts and paid advertisements), print, addressed and unaddressed mail, cinema and outdoor advertising. Television and radio advertising for third parties is also subject to the Advertising Standards Code.

The ASA will decline to adjudicate on complaints about posts on branded social media pages (referred to as organic posts) or websites from political parties, candidates, and election-related advocacy groups. Context is a key part of assessing a breach of the advertising codes. In an election year, if consumers choose to visit or follow websites or branded social media pages from political parties, candidates, and election-related advocacy groups, they need to be aware the content is presented from a particular perspective and should be viewed in that context. This content may also be shared with them by people they know, but that is outside the control of advertiser.

Referenda Advertising

The ASA will deal with complaints about paid advertising in all media on the two referenda subjects, enactment of the End of Life Bill and the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill. The ASA will decline to adjudicate on complaints about referenda-related posts on branded social media pages (referred to as organic posts) or websites from political parties, candidates, and referenda-related advocacy groups.

Jurisdiction

If you are not sure who to complain to, any of these agencies will be able to direct you – Advertising Standards Authority, Broadcasting Standards Authority, Electoral Commission, New Zealand Media Council.