Towards the end of the 90’s political advertising was still subject to some Advertising Code rules, for example those relating to offence. However, following the 1997 General Election, CAP made a decision to exclude political advertising from the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) remit because of several factors that risked bringing advertising regulation in general into disrepute.
In the main, the exemption of political ads from the Code (from any source, not just established political parties) is down to freedom of speech considerations; namely that it is inappropriate for a body like the ASA to intervene in the democratic process.
Accordingly, the Code was changed in 1999 to state the following:
Claims in marketing communications, whenever published or distributed, whose principal function is to influence voters in a local, regional, national or international election or referendum are exempt from the Code.
Marketing communications by central or local government, as distinct from those concerning party policy, are subject to the Code.
In light of rule 7.1 above, marketing communications intended to influence voters in a general election, for example, fall outside of the scope of the Code. It should be noted that whilst it could be argued that all marketing communications from political parties are intended to influence voters the Code is intended to exempt certain types of advertisements, rather than certain types of advertiser.
Advertisements by local or central government however that are not intended to influence voters in an election are subject to the Code, for example a local government ad promoting local Council services.
Please read our Advice Online article on Political Advertising for more information.
Or, if in doubt, contact the Copy Advice Team for further guidance.
|By James Wilkinson Green, Copy Advice Executive
James specialises in pricing, gambling, motoring and environmental advertising as well as remit issues.