Britain's Institute of Practitioners in Advertising has come out in favour of extending political advertising to television and radio as a means of helping stimulate public interest in the electoral process.

The present system of Party Political Broadcasts (PPBs) – which appear in programming time as opposed to commercial breaks – should be replaced on all commercial channels by paid advertising, urges the IPA. But the ad-free BBC should continue to screen PPBs.

Says IPA president Bruce Haines: “The format of traditional PPBs should change [on commercial channels]. They are a 1950s invention from a time when people were in awe of television and fail to understand television as it is today.

“However, we also recognise that if a 30 second ad is capable of delivering a single message with outstanding clarity, there is a role for expanding arguments in a longer format. By mixing PPBs on the BBC with paid for ads in the commercial sector, we should be able to achieve both goals within formats that are more in sympathy with the programming in which they found.

“In this way, PPBs and ads can be constructed to work together, building on each other's strengths to help create a better informed - and hopefully motivated – electorate.”

Referring to the nation’s last general election in May 2001, the IPA estimates that the cost of running a heavyweight 30 seconds advertising campaign for the big three political parties (Labour, Conservative, Liberal-Democrat), across all commercial TV at around 600 television rating points each, would have been approximately £2 million per party. The IPA also believes that the impact of such activity would have pushed up overall TV costs by approximately 3%.

Data sourced from: IPA Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff