Political advertising awareness campaign launches

The new campaign from Media Smart and the Advertising Association aims to help voters understand political advertising

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


People who don’t work in advertising may well be surprised to learn that advertising for a bar of soap faces greater regulation than election ads. Advertising which can help direct, or misdirect, the future of democracy.

Yet while political advertising is not governed by the Advertising Standards Authority, Media Smart and the Advertising Association have stepped up to create an education campaign designed to help voters understand ads from political parties.

The ad was storyboarded, created and approved in just 8 days, following the announcement of the General Election. A reflection of the commitment of the industry to bringing media literacy to the fore during this time.

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 second video creative, designed by Pearl & Dean Productions, part of CREATE at Pearl & Dean, will appear in Pearl & Dean cinemas and on Broadcast Video on Demand on Channel 4, following clearance, subtitling, and delivery through Clearcast.

The campaign will also run across Out of Home with Open Media’s sites and from Next Gen Media in university accommodation and sixth form colleges. The industry has been urged to support by donating media inventory, where possible, to help maximise the awareness campaign and increase circulation of the guide.

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.

Rachel Barber-Mack, Executive Director at Media Smart

According to the Electoral Reform Society, national election spending limits recently increased 80% to around £35m.

While new research from the Advertising Association shows that trust in advertising is increasing, bold claims in election campaigns, such as the now infamous ‘Brexit bus’, could have a negative impact.

According to data released by UK advertising thinktank Credos, 44% of people are concerned about political advertising, with people significantly less likely to trust political advertising (29%) than all 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.

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. Questions encompass digital and AI-generated content; misinformation and fact-checking. As well as exploring 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. 

Rachel Barber-Mack, Executive Director at Media Smart, explained: “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.”

Stephen Woodford, CEO of the Advertising Association, added: “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.”