Digital Ad Industry Unveils New Transparency Guidelines

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The group behind the YourAdChoices program wants to implement the political version of the display icon served on consumer digital ads before the first presidential primary is held in 2020.

On Tuesday, the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) announced its new transparency guidelines for political advertisers at the state and federal level will become effective Nov. 1, 2019, with enforcement of compliance starting on January 1, 2020.

The guidelines include use of the “Political Ad” icon, which a viewer can click on to get the political advertiser’s name, contact information, contribution or expenditure records (when applicable) and individual contacts—including the name of the advertiser’s CEO, member of the executive committee or board of directors, or treasurer.

The move had been in the works since last spring, with the technical specifications for the digital icon released in September 2018. Still, it comes at a time when digital practitioners are already grappling with a flood of changes at Google and Facebook.

In fact, Marla Kaplowitz, who heads the advertising trade group 4A’s, said the transparency initiative will help distinguish the wider digital ad marketplace from the ad platforms at companies like Google and Facebook, which face increased scrutiny from lawmakers.

“Recent investigative reports about media and social media have dramatically underscored the need for the public to know the sponsor of the political ads they see,” Kaplowitz stated. “Fortunately, the advertising industry has in place the Ad Choices tool, now expanded to provide that much-needed transparency to political advertising.”

DAA Executive Director Lou Mastria said that compliance with the guideline will signal that a political advertiser is “responsible.”

“Transparency and accountability are two of the foundational principles of our democracy, and the advertising industry is committed to giving voters simple access to the information they need about express advocacy political ads,” Mastria said in a statement.

“The responsible digital advertising industry has a vested interest in making digital advertising more transparent, and the Political Ad Icon program redoubles our commitment to this critical goal.”

In its announcement, the DAA said that enforcement will be run by the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (ASRC) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) and Association of National Advertisers (ANA), which also enforce the DAA’s YourAdChoices program.

There typically hasn’t been consequences for violations of the YourAdChoices program. Michael Signorelli, counsel for the DAA, previously told C&E that under the YourAdChoices program nearly all the 85 companies that have been contacted by the accountability department have come into compliance.

Randall Rothenberg, CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a business research and standards group, said it’s now up the FEC to “make PoliticalAds the foundation of digital political ad disclosure, and protect our democracy from the threats it faces.”

Digital ads generally fall under the FEC’s small-item exemption rule for disclaimers.

 

By: Sean Miller

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