What is Government advertising?

Definition of Government advertising

A ‘Government advertising campaign’ is defined in section 4 of the Act as follows:

"Government advertising campaign means the dissemination to members of the public of information about a government program, policy or initiative, or about any public health or safety or other matter, that:

(a) is funded by or on behalf of a Government agency, and

(b) is disseminated under a commercial advertising distribution agreement by means of radio, television, the Internet, newspapers, billboards, cinemas or other media."

The Guidelines state that other media may include, but is not limited to, internet search marketing, mobile device marketing (text, audio and video), posters, mobile billboards and signage on buses, trains, boats, aircraft and taxis.

Application of the Act

Advertising is a complex and fast changing landscape which can include a wide range of activities. Often, advertising will be only one part of a broader communication and marketing plan.

The Act most commonly applies to traditional advertising campaigns bought through a media buying agency. However, it can also apply to other communications activities depending on how these activities are arranged, funded or distributed.

To determine whether an activity is subject to the Act, agencies need to consider whether it meets the definition of a Government advertising campaign, as outlined above.

If yes

If an activity meets this definition then it is subject to the requirements of the Act, including the prohibitions on political advertising and the requirements for compliance certification prior to the commencement of advertising.

If no

If an activity does not fall within the definition of a Government advertising campaign under the Act, it may still be subject to other whole of government policies or guidelines, including:

Agencies should also ensure that their activities remain apolitical and consistent with obligations under the Government Sector Employment Act 2013.

Whether or not an activity is classified as a Government advertising campaign is ultimately a matter for agencies to determine. However if an agency is unsure, further advice can be sought from the Department of Premier and Cabinet

Purposes and principles of advertising

Advertising can play an important role in efficiently and effectively achieving public policy goals in NSW. It is important that the NSW Government informs people in NSW about their rights, obligations and entitlements. The NSW Government may use public funds to inform the public of these rights and obligations, as well as explain government policies, programs, services and initiatives.

The NSW Government is responsible for ensuring equity, probity, appropriateness and accountability in all activities that may form part of its communication strategies.

The Guidelines set out the range of objectives which advertising can be used to achieve, as well as standards and principles which agencies should observe when planning, developing and managing NSW Government advertising campaigns.

Inappropriate use of publicly funded advertising

The Act prohibits a Government advertising campaign from:

  • being designed to influence support for a political party
  • including material that contains the name, or gives prominence to the voice or image of a Minister, any other member of Parliament or a candidate for an election to Parliament
  • including material with the name, logo or any slogan of a
    political party.

Advertising categories

The advertising categories are defined below to assist government agencies in their consideration of the available advertising services and relevant policies.

Recruitment advertising

This refers to all advertising that promotes specific job vacancies and employment opportunities within a government agency.

Public notices

This form of a government advertising campaign contains a clear, simple message/announcement and is generally one-off or short-term in nature. Examples include:

  • public transport timetable notices and road closures
  • announcement of permanent or temporary changes to government services
  • availability of government funds, grants and awards programs
  • details about community consultations, public hearings, investigations, seminars, workshops and other government events
  • statutory/regulatory notices1
  • urgent public health or safety announcements (e.g. non-statutory notices for emergencies).

Public awareness advertising

As appropriate, agencies may determine a need to undertake a series of coordinated communications to raise awareness of key issues or encourage behaviour change and participation.
Key areas for government advertising campaigns include:

  • safety and public health
  • environment, water and energy
  • promotion of government services and products
  • NSW business and tourism
  • awareness of government initiatives and programs
  • supporting sponsorship and events promotions.


1. Some agencies are required by legislation or regulation to publicly disclose certain information about their activities (e.g. legislative changes, environmental assessment or development notices). The information to be included in the Government advertising campaigns as well as the publications may also be determined by the relevant legislation or regulation. Section 4(2)(a) of the Government Advertising Act excludes the publication of a report that is required to be published by or under an Act from the definition of a ‘government advertising campaign’.