Using content analysis as a method of investigation, this article examines the role of newspaper advertisements in the democratisation process in Nigeria, with specific reference to the 2007 presidential elections. Unlike the previous studies that mainly did comparative analyses of advertisements along political lines, the present study investigates the extent to which newspaper organisations complied with legal and ethical guidelines on exposure of political advertisements. The political actors and major issues contained in the political advertisements were also studied. Three national newspapers, The Guardian, This Day and The Punch were purposively selected for the study. The period of study covered the 3 months immediately preceding the election date (February–April 2007). All the issues of the three newspapers for the 3 months (a total of 89 editions of each) were studied. The content coding categories and units of analysis were adapted. This study found that a majority of the newspaper advertisements had identified sponsors, although an equally significant number of the copies did not have identified sponsors; the advertisements focused on issues, which however may not be of immediate relevance to the needs of the electorates; burning national issues were ignored; and there were more image-boosting than image-attenuating advertisements. Failure of government regulatory agencies to sanction culprits, including the nonconformance by newspaper organisations, with ethical and legal guidelines on political advertisements were reported, along with relevant recommendations. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.