Five of the nation’s largest advertising trade associations today released a joint statement urging Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to rescind a portion of her Executive Order No. 2020-40 prohibiting certain types of advertising in Michigan she issued to address the COVID-19 outbreak.
Whitmer’s order states: “By April 13, 2020, refrain from the advertising or promotion of goods that are not groceries, medical supplies, or items that are necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and basic operation of residences.”
The statement was issued by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, American Advertising Federation, Association of National Advertisers, Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the Network Advertising Initiative.
The letter states: “In times of crisis, governments must take strong action to ensure public safety, and we commend Gov. Whitmer for her efforts to protect the people of Michigan during this perilous time.
“Unfortunately, a section of the Governor’s recent executive order damages Michigan’s advertising industry by prohibiting lawful speech, while providing no benefit to public safety, so we urge the Governor to rescind that section immediately.
“As the order itself notes, news media is part of our critical infrastructure. Advertising provides revenue to support both news organizations and digital services, including the massive public service campaigns that are educating Michigan residents about how to protect themselves from COVID-19.
“Policymakers should support that financial model, rather than undermining it. Instead, the order places unconstitutional restrictions on advertising by prohibiting ‘advertising or promotion of goods that are not groceries, medical supplies, or items that are necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and basic operation of residences,’ as well as short-term property rentals.
“In arbitrarily prohibiting advertising by large retailers and rental property owners, the order violates a fundamental tenant of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of free speech by targeting specific speakers based on what they want to say. These restrictions have no benefit for public health and do nothing to advance any government interest yet are in clear violation of that constitutional right.
“In short, these restrictions will not protect public health, improve safety, or reduce the burden on our overwhelmed front-line emergency workers, but they could cause lasting and unintended damage to Michigan’s news providers and advertising industry. We urge the Governor to revoke these restrictions as soon as possible.”
The letter was signed by Dan Jaffe, group executive vice president of government relations with the Association of National Advertisers; Clark Rector, executive vice president of government affairs for the American Advertising Federation; David Grimaldi, executive vice president of public policy at the Interactive Advertising Bureau; Alison Pepper, senior vice president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies; and David LeDuc, vice president of public policy at the Network Advertising Initiative.
In addition to the advertising restrictions, Whitmer and the state of Michigan are the subject of several recent local and federal lawsuits that challenge her stay-at-home order on constitutional grounds. Her order has contributed to the closing of thousands of businesses across the state — over the last month more than 1 million people in the state have filed for unemployment, about one-quarter of the total workforce.
At the same time, many businesses deemed to be “selling non-essential items” have been ordered closed, along with churches. Whitmer has allowed the sale of lottery tickets, cannabis, and liquor.
To read the order and the pertinent language addressing prohibited ad sales (toward the end of the order), visit Executive Order No. 2020-40.