National’s Facebook ad deemed irresponsible

An advertisement has been removed from the National Party Facebook page following an Advertising Standards Authority ruling on its misleading statements – but the party says it will appeal.

The ad, posted on the party’s page in June to complement a press release from leader Simon Bridges, said the Government had increased weekly costs for New Zealanders.

The graphic featured five supporting statements including: “This Government is costing Kiwi families over $100 a week: $15 a week in extra fuel taxes, $20 a week in more expensive groceries, $20 a week in rent increases, $40 a week in cancelled tax cuts, $10 a week lower wages from slowing economic growth”.

A complaint from P Bruce said the ad attempted to draw a comparison between what is happening under the current Government and what would have happened if the National Party had been elected. Bruce said the lack of detail on where the quoted amounts came from, and the ad trying to blame Government policies for the increases involved was misleading.

The ASA partially upheld the complaint, ruling the party had not provided sufficient evidence to support three of the five statements.

National, which removed the post in July while the ASA considered the case said it “completely rejected" the complaint and had no intention of misleading the public.

It said the Facebook ad was untargeted, had no money put behind it and the accompanying press release had sufficient detail to support the statements made.

The ASA directed its complaints board to consider if the ad had been prepared with ‘due sense of social responsibility to consumers and society’ and whether it presented any misleading elements.

The board ruled the post fell into the category of advocacy advertising which states “opinion should be clearly distinguishable from factual information”.

It unanimously agreed insufficient evidence was provided to support the extra fuel tax and rent increase statements citing regional variations in both of these costs made it inaccurate to say they affected all New Zealanders.

The majority of the board also agreed the increased cost of groceries could not be attributed solely to the Government’s policies and that other factors such as adverse weather may have an impact.

Overall, the board agreed the advertisement was in breach of truthful presentation (Rule 2 of its Code of Ethics) and had not been prepared with a due sense of social responsibility.

The National Party's general manager Greg Hamilton said the party had written to the authority asking it to review its decision and had provided more information.

“The code is clear and it talks about the difference between fact and expressing a view and basically we’ve got back to them to substantiate where our view came from.”

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