Types of Advertising of “Special Interest” to Public Relations Counselors

With Rowan University’s graduate comprehensive exams coming up this week, here is information vital to pubic relations practitioners when it comes to political and advocacy advertising. [To comment: larry@larrylitwin.com]

IssueAdvocacyAds – These ads try to influence public perceptions of proposals being debated in Congress or state legislatures, often by putting public pressure on lawmakers. Like political ads that aim to defeat or elect a candidate, for the most part, issue ads are not regulated. Sponsors are neither subject to spending limits, nor must they disclose sources of funding.

Political Advertising – The purpose of political ads is to persuade people to vote for a candidate, or in some cases, an issue. While the Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission and Federal Election Commission view political ads liberally when it comes to “truth in advertising” and “deceptive” practices, there are certain guidelines that must be followed:

•  Political advertising does not have to adhere to truth in advertising as other types of ads do. They may use deception and misleading information (PR Play 11-21) in “The Public Relations Practitioner’s Playbook.”

•  If a printed piece is mailed, the name and address of the candidate or representative must be on the ad.

•  All printed pieces, brochures, fliers, and newspaper and magazine ads must indicate who is paying for them.

•  Radio commercials must contain the candidate’s voice and television commercials must show the candidate’s face (even a still shot). They must also state who is paying for the commercial.

•  Candidates for federal office must disclaim their radio and television ad – either at the beginning or end – stating their name and saying “I approve this message.” On TV, they must be shown saying it.

•  Generally, both print and electronic media charge the lowest rate on a rate card for a section or page in the newspaper or magazine, or “day part” in radio or TV. (Congress is considering legislation related to political pricing charged by TV stations.)

•  As a safety precaution, most media outlets require that payment is made at the time ads are placed.