THE director general of the International Advertising Association (IAA), Mr Norman Vale, expressed surprised yesterday at the size of Hongkong's advertising expenditure. He was speaking at the IAA's symposium on advertising and the media in a free economy at the J. W. Marriott hotel. Last year the territory spent $8 billion on advertising. ''The quality and quantity of advertising and media in Hongkong is very positive,'' he said. ''Media and the advertising business have developed fast here and the availability of media is in direct proportion to sales. ''It's a simple fact that advertising and media need each other, we cannot separate them.'' On the question of freedom, Mr Vale said the physical evidence of the number of publications on news stands was proof of press freedom. ''There is no holding back on controversial issues, which is very fresh,'' he said. ''In comparison to other countries, Hongkong media seem to have a fairly free run. ''I can only read the English press but the simple fact that there is no gazetting, unlike Singapore, is also evidence of freedom of press and choice, both of which are fundamental to a free economy such as Hongkong's,'' he said. Mr Vale was speaking at the IAA's first symposium in Hongkong since the local chapter was established last year. Executive director of the IAA in New York, Mr Richard Corner, said the timing of the symposium was a perfect public relations vehicle for the Hongkong chapter of the IAA in the run-up to 1997. ''This is a good moment to strengthen the intellectual groundwork on advertising and its relation to a free market and emphasise the importance of advertising as the upholder of democratic communications through which to reach the consumer,'' he said.