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Political Advertising Guide

Media Smart and Advertising Association Publish Political Advertising Guide

Published: 30 Apr 2024

New research shows people significantly less likely to trust political advertising than commercial advertising

London, 30 April 2024: Media Smart, the advertising and media industry’s education programme, has partnered with the Advertising Association, the UK advertising industry trade body, to publish ‘What’s the deal with political advertising?’. The new 10-point guide aims to help people, especially young people preparing to vote for the first time, understand ads they may see ahead of this year’s local, mayoral, and general elections. It comes as data from 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%).

Media Smart worked with youth focused creative agency, Livity, to produce the guide which answers questions on election advertising rules; how platforms are responding to digital and AI-generated content; steps to tackle misinformation and fact-checking; and how people can improve their political literacy with a range of resources. It also highlights how commercial advertising, subject to rules enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), differs to political advertising campaigns.

Political advertising has a rich history in UK culture, with famous ads including the 1978 Conservative campaign by Saatchi & Saatchi ‘Labour isn’t working’ and Labour’s Margaret Thatcher mock-up ‘Be Afraid’ by TBWA in 2001. However, according to Credos research, people are unsure about how political advertising is regulated:

Rachel Barber-Mack, Executive Director, Media Smart, said: “In this year of elections, we want to help young people, especially those preparing to vote for the first time, fully understand political advertising. Research shows nearly half trust political advertisements, but a similar level have concerns. We have a responsibility to make sure they know how to read, check, and understand any advertising information received to help inform their voting decisions.”

Stephen Woodford, CEO, Advertising Association, said: “Our industry thinktank, Credos, has conducted in depth research over the last 5 years to understand what builds and breaks the public’s trust in advertising. We know from the recent ASA ad campaigns that building awareness that all commercial advertising must be ‘Legal, Decent, Honest and Truthful’ drives significant improvement in trust. The public is more uncertain about political advertising and the Media Smart resources should help voters, especially those voting for the first time, be able to better understand political advertising.”

An awareness campaign will be delivered via AA and Media Smart channels online to help promote the guide, as well as through five thought-provoking ad executions in 300 universities and colleges through a partnership with Next-Gen Media. A guide on Media Smart’s website will also be available for teachers and parents to download for use in the classroom and at home. This new campaign is one of multiple actions the AA is taking to drive public trust in the advertising industry with a full update on the trust programme for the industry scheduled for June.

Resources can be downloaded via Media Smart’s website here.


Notes to editors

Credos’ public trust tracker is a nationally representative survey of the UK population conducted on a quarterly basis by Kantar. Findings in this release refer to Q1 2024 (collected between 1st -5th February) based on a sample of 601 respondents.

For further information, please contact:

Rachel Barber-Mack, Executive Director of Media Smart

Matt Bourn, Director of Communications, Advertising Association

Mariella Brown, Senior Communications Manager, Advertising Association

About Media Smart 

Media Smart is the advertising and media industry’s award-winning education non-profit with a mission to ensure that every young person in the UK, aged 7 to 21, 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 and parent & guardian guides on subjects like social media, digital advertising, scam advertising, greenwashing, body image, influencer marketing, creative careers and piracy which are delivered in the classroom, assembly, youth club or at home. Media Smart is on a mission to equip young people with the skills and attributes to navigate advertising, media, and digital literacy today for better employability, well-being, and citizenship tomorrow.  

In 2023 alone, Media Smart resources reached 845,000 young people and saw 6,000 educational resources downloaded, backed by 40 supporters across 10 industry sectors. In the last 10 years, Media Smart has seen nearly 200,000 resources downloaded and reached 12m young people.

Media Smart was incorporated into the Advertising Association in 2023.

About the Advertising Association

The Advertising Association promotes the role and rights of responsible advertising - trusted, inclusive, and sustainable – and its value to people, society, businesses, and the economy. Responsible businesses understand that there is little point in an advertisement that people cannot trust. That's why, over 50 years ago, the Advertising Association led UK advertising towards a system of independent self-regulation which has since been adopted around the world. There are nearly thirty UK trade associations representing advertising, media, and marketing. Through the Advertising Association they come together with a single voice when speaking to policy makers and influencers.

About Livity

Livity is a creative agency that taps into the creativity and insight of young people to future proof brands. Our clients include Foot Locker, YoungMinds, Nike, Pinterest, Google, and the UK Government.

Brands work with Livity to future proof and find their place in youth culture. Our In Future List of diverse young creatives, activists, entrepreneurs and thought leaders are an invaluable resource to identify the trends, ideas and insights that will shape the future. More importantly, the young people we mentor receive training, experience and support into employment and education.

About Next-Gen Media

We connect brands with young people in a trusted media environment. Our national network of full-motion digital screens engages this notoriously hard-to-reach audience where they live and study. By partnering with education and university accommodation providers, we have developed a growing portfolio of more than 300 screens in high footfall and dwell time areas. Our network already achieves more than 700k daily impressions per campaign in more than 60 towns and cities across the UK. We are an audience-first media owner, powering our platform with live-insights from young people and the experience of our Gen Z founders and team.

Categories:  Industry News