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What is Advocacy Advertising – Definition, Objectives, Examples of Advocacy Advertising

Imagine a world where brands champion important causes. They use powerful messages and storytelling to raise awareness, spark conversations, and drive positive change. This is the world of advocacy advertising.

Beyond selling products, these campaigns tackle social, political, or environmental issues. Think Nike’s “Dream Crazy” campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick or Gillette’s ad challenging toxic masculinity.

Source: CBS News

Why do brands do it? Building trust, engaging consumers, and enhancing brand image are just a few reasons. However, authenticity is key. Consumers can spot insincere campaigns a mile away.

Meaning of Advocacy advertising

Advocacy advertising refers to a form of advertising where a brand takes a stance on social, political, or environmental issues through their promotional campaigns. 

Advocacy Advertising

It involves using advertising as a platform to advocate for a particular cause or to raise awareness about a specific issue. Advocacy advertising aims to influence public opinion, promote social change, and align the brand with a particular cause or value.

Definition of Advocacy Advertising 

Wilcox, Ronald E., and Shannon B. Sternlieb said that “Advocacy advertising is a form of noncommercial communication designed to influence public opinion and behavior on a social, political, or environmental issue.”

Etzel, Michael J. said “Advocacy advertising is a type of commercial advertising where the primary objective is to change or reinforce opinions, attitudes, or behaviors related to a social, political, economic, or environmental issue.” 

Riffe, Daniel, Stephen Lacy, and Frederic Fico said that  “Advocacy advertising attempts to influence public opinion or behavior on a particular issue or cause. While advocacy advertising can be paid for by a wide range of organizations, it is often used by corporations, advocacy groups, or government entities.”

Craig, Robert T. said that “Advocacy advertising is a form of advertising that promotes a cause or viewpoint rather than a specific product or service. It is used to raise awareness, change opinions, or encourage action on a particular issue.” 

Smith, Ronald D., and Pamela J. Shoemaker said that “Advocacy advertising is a form of persuasive communication that seeks to influence public opinion on an issue or topic. It is often used by corporations, advocacy groups, and government agencies to raise awareness, change attitudes, or promote a particular action.” 

Examples of advocacy advertising include campaigns that address topics such as racial equality, gender equality, environmental sustainability, or human rights. These campaigns often feature powerful messages, storytelling, and emotional appeals to engage and persuade consumers.

However, advocacy advertising can be controversial and divisive. It can face criticism and backlash if consumers perceive it as insincere or opportunistic, using social issues for profit rather than genuinely supporting the cause. 

The effectiveness of advocacy advertising depends on various factors, including the alignment between the brand and the issue, the authenticity of the message, and the target audience’s receptiveness to the cause.

Examples of Advocacy advertising

Several companies have used advocacy advertising to take a stance on social, political, or environmental issues. Some notable examples include:

Nike

Nike’s “Dream Crazy” campaign in 2018 featured former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who voiced against racism and police brutality by kneeling during the National Anthem at one of his football games. 

The campaign received both praise and backlash, with some consumers supporting Nike’s message and others boycotting the brand.

Pepsi

Pepsi’s controversial ad in 2017 depicted a protest scene where Kendall Jenner hands a can of Pepsi to a police officer, seemingly resolving tensions. 

The ad faced intense criticism as consumers accused Pepsi of capitalizing on the Black Lives Matter movement for profit.

Gillette

Gillette’s 2019 campaign took a stance on toxic masculinity and sexual harassment following the #MeToo movement. The ad encouraged men to challenge and change negative behaviors. 

The campaign received mixed reactions, with some praising Gillette for addressing important social issues and others criticizing the brand for being preachy or divisive.

These are just a few examples, and many other companies have used advocacy advertising to align themselves with social causes or promote positive change.

Objectives of Advocacy Advertising

Goal: Promote social, political, or environmental issues.

  • Raise awareness and generate support.
  • Encourage action and influence public opinion.
  • Shape cultural meaning and drive positive change.

Benefits for brands:

  • Demonstrate values.
  • Engage with consumers.
  • Build a positive brand image.

Overall, advocacy advertising is a strategy used by brands to not only promote their products or services but also to make a positive social impact and contribute to larger societal conversations.

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