Commentary

Political Firm Says Mobile Banner Ads Should Be Exempt From Disclaimers

Federal Elections Commission rules could thwart politicos who want to advertise on mobile. So says political consultancy Revolution Messaging, which today asked the agency to allow mobile banner ads to run without disclaimers stating who paid for the ad and whether it was authorized by a candidate.

Revolution Messaging says in a letter to the FEC that disclaimers won't easily fit on mobile banner ads, given the relatively small screens on smartphones. The shop wants mobile banner ads exempted from the disclosure rules -- as are other small items like bumper stickers and pins.

Revolution Messaging partner Keegan Goudiss tells MediaPost that the FEC rules have spurred some mobile ad networks and publishers to reject ads without disclaimers. “In the past, some mobile ad networks and publishers allowed the ads, some didn't,” he says. “We think it's important because some mobile ad companies aren't sure what way to go.”

While the FEC can't generally fine mobile publishers or ad networks for running ads, the agency could subpoena their records or otherwise cause headaches for those companies. The FEC can fine campaigns to the tune of $5,000 or the amount spent on the ads, whichever is greater, says Liz Howard, an attorney with Revolution's law firm Sandler Reiff Young & Lamb.

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This isn't the first time the FEC is being asked to consider how to apply disclaimer rules to digital media. Three years ago, the FEC took up questions about disclaimers in paid search ads. The agency ruled that such ads don't need disclaimers -- but only when the ad copy links to a separate page that has the information.

But Revolution Messaging says in its petition that not all of its banner ads link to pages with disclaimers. For instance, a get-out-the-vote ad might link to a Web site with a list of polling places. In that case, the landing page wouldn't indicate that the original ad was paid for by a political campaign.

Goudiss says he hopes the FEC will issue a draft opinion within the next several weeks.

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