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Advertising groups: Whitmer’s advertising ban poses ‘no benefit for public health’

By Scott McClallen | The Center Square Apr 16, 2020

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended her stay-at-home order last week, and enacted stricter rules on travel, what goods people can buy, and what goods businesses are allowed to sell and advertise.

(The Center Square) – A day after thousands of protestors gridlocked Lansing over Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-42, another group is asking her to rescind part of the same order.

Five of the largest advertising trade industry associations in the United States say Whitmer’s order that bans some advertising violates free speech.

Those industries are The American Association of Advertising Agencies, American Advertising Federation, Association of National Advertisers, Interactive Advertising Bureau, and Network Advertising Initiative.

They released a joint statement on Thursday.

Whitmer’s order bans advertising in stores larger than 50,000 square feet for goods “that are not groceries, medical supplies, or items that are necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and basic operation of residences.”

The order is active until April 30.

It adds: “No one shall advertise or rent a short-term vacation property except as necessary to assist in housing a health care professional or volunteer aiding in the response to the COVID-19 crisis.”

Whitmer’s office didn’t reply to a request for comment.

The industries commended Whitmer for protecting Michiganders during the coronavirus pandemic but questioned how a partial advertising ban prevented the spread of COVID-19.

The leaders said the order hurts its intended cause.

“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.”

The rule violates “the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of free speech by targeting specific speakers based on what they want to say,” they argued.

The group says the 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,” the groups wrote.

“We urge the Governor to revoke these restrictions as soon as possible.”

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