An ad industry self-regulatory group wants political advertisers to insert new icons in online ads that expressly urge people to vote for or against particular candidates.
The new "Political Ad" icons should link to sites that disclose the identity of the advertisers, their contact information and other disclaimers, the Digital Advertising Alliance said in guidance issued Tuesday morning. The program would be comparable to the DAA's AdChoices initiative, which aims to inform consumers about advertisers' use of tracking data, and allow people to opt out of receiving behaviorally targeted ads.
The DAA hasn't yet worked out the implementation details of the new political-ad icon program, according to executive director Lou Mastria. The organization intends to convene working groups in the next several months, in hopes of figuring out unanswered questions, including "what part of the supply chain" will place the icon in the ad. Another unresolved issue involves how the Political Ad icon will interact with the AdChoices icon in situations where both icons are required.
The initiatively most likely won't fully roll out in time for this year's midterm elections, Mastria says. "We are hopeful that it's early enough that companies can start implementing and operationalizing these [icons]," Mastria says. "Will the full program be done in the next 5-6 months? Probably not."
This comes as the Federal Election Commission is crafting new disclaimer rules for online political ads. In the past, the FEC didn't require full disclaimers within the body of ads that were physically small -- including some ads on Facebook and Google. But the agency is revisiting the question in light of revelations that Russia interfered in the last presidential election.
The FEC issued two proposals for online disclaimers. One proposal calls for information about the sponsor in the ad itself. The second would allow that information to be presented in other formats, including via in-ad links. The FEC's proposals, like the DAA's guidance, applies only to paid ads that expressly advocate for or against a candidate, and not ads that focus on issues but don't reference candidates.
Mastria suggests that the DAA's new icon program could work in conjunction with the FEC's forthcoming rules. "The way that we tried to devise this system is that it will be complementary to some of the things that we're hearing about," he says.
The DAA will license the political ad icons, but does not anticipate that it will charge for them, Mastria says.