What is advocacy advertising? Definition & Examples

Advocacy advertising is the practice of using social media to create an online community for a brand, product, or service.

This marketing strategy has many benefits over traditional forms of advertising. 

The best thing about advocacy ads is that they can be extremely cheap and easy to set up. You don’t need any experience in SEO or web design to get started with this type of marketing. It’s also very effective – you’ll see results quickly!

What is advocacy advertising?

 What is advocacy advertising?
What is advocacy advertising?

Advocacy advertising is a form of commercial communication that seeks to persuade its audience to take action on an issue. It is distinct from regular advertising in that it does not aim to sell a product or service, but instead promotes specific objectives such as political issues, social reforms, and changes in public behaviors. As such, advocacy ads often carry a certain degree of controversy and public scrutiny as they aim to influence audience opinion on important issues.

What is the history of advocacy advertising?

The first advocacy ads are believed to have appeared during the late 1800s in Europe, where governments implemented various initiatives to raise awareness on social issues. However, it is noted that they were not called “advocacy” until the mid-20th century when the practice began to spread to North America.

Since then, the field has evolved significantly to become a strategic communication tool that is utilized by various sectors of society. Today, advocacy ads are commonly used by environmental groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and social marketers to promote their causes. Corporations have also started to adopt advocacy strategies to raise awareness on social issues through their ads, as seen with the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.

What is the purpose of advocacy advertising?

Advocacy advertising is an effective way of increasing awareness about an issue.

For example, anti-smoking. Advocacy advertising aims to increase awareness about a specific topic in the viewer’s mind, but it also sparks conversation and controversy, generating a deeper emotional connection with the viewer. It can also act as an influence for positive change.

When used in an ethical manner, advocacy advertising can contribute to society by raising awareness on important issues that affect people’s lives.  

What is the purpose of advocacy advertising?
What is the purpose of advocacy advertising?

For example, environmental groups use ad campaigns to push for environmental protection, as seen with the “I’m In” campaign by the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.  

Advocacy ads can also be used to educate the public on health issues. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), cancer affects millions of people worldwide, and the society’s “What You Need to Know About Cancer” ad aims to make them aware of cancer symptoms, treatment options, and prevention measures.

How to make an advocacy advertising

Here are some guides to make effective advocacy ads, you need to follow these steps:

How to make an advocacy advertising
How to make an advocacy advertising
  • Plan your campaign: 

You will need to do your research if you want to succeed in your advocacy advertising. It is important for you to know your audience because that will help you decide what you are going to say. You should also have a good idea of how to say it before you even begin to plan your campaign.

  • Create awareness:

People respond to slogans, images, and arguments.  You need to understand how they work, and then use them to attract people’s attention and convince them. The messages that you will use in your advocacy advertising will come from several sources. Some of them are new or original, some are borrowed and some are adapted. All the messages you use need to be accurate and persuasive.

  • Generate engagement:

Use the power of social media, communication channels with your community such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube to raise your advocacy ads. Find the way to connect with your community by inspiring them to change behavior and cognition via your message.

  • Encourage action: 

Advocacy advertising is a very serious business. You are trying to persuade people to take some action that you support. The action might be for them to vote for you or against you in an upcoming election; it might be to use your product rather than another one, or it might be to lend their support to an issue that is important to you.

  • Sustain the momentum:

Keep other activities after your advocacy ads to encourage your fans or your targeted customer to keep their good action for a better life.

Examples of successful advocacy advertising

Some examples of advocacy ads have a profound impact on society such as:

– The Mindful Drinking campaign helped drive a 36% reduction in alcohol consumption.  As part of the campaign, newspapers, and posters issued warnings about the links between alcohol and depression.

– The Breast Screen Victoria ads used humor to bring attention to the fact that women were ignoring their mammograms. 

– The ‘Go for 2 + 5’ advertising campaign in Singapore, showing a number of healthy activities that could be undertaken in between eating meals.   This campaign helped to decrease the amount of snacking during the day by 25%.

Other examples of ethical advertising include the “Think Before You Speak” ad by PETA, which encourages people to voice their opinion in a respectful manner, and the “Shine” campaign by Deakin University, which is designed to promote the employment of young Australians with disabilities.


Is advocacy advertising controversial?

Does it make the viewer think, or is this type of advertising purely for entertainment purposes? If you’ve watched American television within the past few months, you’ve likely come across at least one television advertisement created to spark conversation and sometimes even controversy. 

Both advocates and detractors raise concerns about its impact on target audiences and disagree on how to assess its efficacy. This type of advertising is known as “advocacy advertising but also the divisive type of corporate marketing.

What are the pros and cons of advocacy advertising?

Advocacy ads may prove to be more beneficial than harmful for society.

Ads can contribute to raise awareness, educate humans on social issues. That makes a positive impact of change on people’s lives, environment, and global.

However, advocacy ads also have some disadvantages. It may not always reach the target audience, and if they do, viewers may react in unexpected ways that harm the intended message.

According to research, advocacy ads are often neglected by the public, who view them as less important compared to regular advertisements.

Types of Advocacy ads

Advocacy advertising is generally divided into two types, “third party” and “merchandising.” 

Third-party refers to ads that appear in publications or on television shows where the advertiser pays the media outlet for its time (or space). That can be seen in environmental, public health, social justice, and political campaigns.

Merchandising typically refers to ads on billboards or banners on websites that are paid for by the advertiser and only reach the consumers who click the banner. Merchandising is more common in commercial marketing initiatives (with some notable examples outlined below). 

Environmental campaigns are some of the most visible examples of third-party advocacy advertising. Organizations like Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund receive significant funding from donors who share their mission, but they also engage in “merchandising” schemes with outdoor media.


By using advocacy advertising, you can get more customers without having to spend as much on ads. This means you can get more sales while spending less money on ads than your competitors do. 

And about you, what are your thoughts on advocacy advertising? Have you tried any of these neuroscience principles? Let us know in the comments below.

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