Understanding Issue Advocacy Advertising

While money and political will can drive change, public opinion is historically the most influential catalyst for that change. Issue advocacy advertising influences public opinion to promote specific causes rather than selling products or services. Industry associations, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, companies, and governments (to name a few) all use issue advocacy advertising to effectively influence public opinion on a variety of issues including social, political, or environmental issues.

Advocacy in Advertising

Advocacy advertising raises awareness, shapes perceptions, and mobilizes support for particular causes or viewpoints. It can appear in various forms, such as television commercials, print ads, online campaigns, social media posts, and public relations efforts. Both nonprofits and corporations utilize these methods to promote their causes.

Goals of Issue Advocacy Advertising

The objectives of issue advocacy advertising vary based on the issue or cause. Common goals include:

  • Promoting awareness
  • Educating the public
  • Changing attitudes or behaviors
  • Influencing public policy
  • Mobilizing support for specific actions or initiatives
issue advocacy

How to Implement Advocacy Advertising

Advocacy advertising uses the same channels as traditional advertising, including online ads, social media, print, TV, and email. Any organization can engage in advocacy advertising. However, it is essential to distinguish between advocacy advertising and advocacy marketing. Advocacy marketing encourages customers to promote a company's product or brand online virally, while advocacy advertising focuses on promoting a cause through advertising channels without the expectation of immediate financial returns. Returns may come from donations, volunteers, or influencing public opinion.

As with all successful advertising initiatives, a campaign needs a target audience, a relevant and compelling message, and a way to measure its effectiveness.

Issue Advocacy vs. Political Advertising

At El Toro, advocacy advertising falls into two categories: Political and Non-Political (issue) advocacy.

Non-Political Advocacy

Most organizations can conduct issue advocacy advertising as long as it remains non-partisan. They cannot endorse political candidates, ballot measures, or issues with a political bias. Nonprofits can generally freely run advocacy campaigns within these guidelines.

Political Advocacy

Political Advocacy advertising is more regulated by the FCC and the FEC. Political Advocacy requires compliance with state and federal election laws and mandates full transparency of advertisers and vendors to ensure fairness in the political landscape. A good rule of thumb is that if the advertisement looks and feels like it is political-leaning, any advertiser or demand-side platform will require thorough transparency documentation.

Running Advocacy Campaigns with El Toro

Are you planning an issue advocacy campaign? El Toro can help you reach and influence the right audiences. Nonprofits can easily conduct their campaigns while maintaining a non-partisan stance. Contact us to amplify your cause and make an impact.


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