Digital Advertising Accountability Program

Political Advertising Transparency Project Blog


Political Advertising: Notice and Enhanced Notice

This 2020 election season, voters will consider candidates for offices high and low: from governors and state attorneys general all the way to congressmen, senators, and the President of the United States. Campaigns have increasingly turned to digital advertising to reach voters with their messages and drive them to the polls. This happens across the full spectrum of internet content—social media, apps, and individual websites on the open web.

With the great power of the Internet, however, comes great responsibility. If you are part of a campaign or other interest group that aims to reach voters through online political advertising, you should make sure you understand your responsibilities under the Digital Advertising Alliance’s Political Advertising Principles.

What do I have to do?

If you pay for online ads that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a particular candidate for office, you are a “political advertiser” under the Principles. As a political advertiser, you have a responsibility to include an “enhanced notice” in your express advocacy ads that leads to a notice. An enhanced notice is a symbol, signal, or set of words that informs users that the ad is political. Often, this comes in the form of the Political Ads Icon:

AdChoices Political

DAAP Political Adverising Large

This link should take users to a notice, which explains the origin of the political ad.

What’s in a notice?

A notice is essentially a disclosure providing users with information about who the advertiser is and what they are doing. To be compliant with industry best practices, political advertisers should follow the DAA’s Political Advertising Principles. Under these guidelines, a notice should include, at a minimum:

  1. The political advertiser’s name (“Committee to elect George Smith”),
  2. contact information (phone number, physical address, email, or website),
  3. any information required by law,
  4. either: a link to a government database showing contributions and expenditures by the advertiser (if required by law) or a link to a DAA-developed website with links to government databases for contributions and expenditures,
  5. any disclaimer required by law, if it is too small to fit in the advertisement itself (“Paid for by the Committee to Elect George Smith”), and
  6. the name of the advertiser’s CEO, executive committee member, board member, or treasurer.

What about interest-based advertising?

Sometimes, as a political advertiser, you’ll want to run online political advertisements that are also interest-based advertisements; that is, advertisements targeted at a particular user’s interests. In that case, to be compliant with industry best practices, you’ll want to make sure that your notice (which discloses who you are and what you do) also includes an interest-based advertising disclosure and consumer choice mechanisms as required by the DAA’s Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising. Such mechanisms provide users with the ability to exercise choice over the collection and user of their data. At a minimum, you’ll need to provide users with links to an IBA opt-out mechanism.

political ads
Source: DAA

What about mobile?

For many Americans, their smartphone is their primary link to the rest of the world. It’s how they connect with friends and family, read the news, and engage in the national conversation. As a result, political advertisements in mobile apps are increasingly popular as a means of getting your message directly into users’ hands.

When advertising through mobile apps, the same industry best practices apply as when advertising through the web. The rules for political advertising are the same for desktop and mobile ads, but best practices for interest-based ads vary by format. Be sure to check out the Application of Self-Regulatory Principles to the Mobile Environment, which is your guide ensuring that when you place advertisements in mobile apps, you are following industry best practices for IBA.

Keeping it real

Elections can be confusing times for voters, with a torrent of information and advocacy coming from every direction. But online political ads don’t have to be so confusing. By providing notice, enhanced notice, and (in the case of interest-based advertisements) opt-out mechanisms to users who view political advertisements, political advertisers can help inform potential voters about who messages are coming from, what an advertiser’s funding and spending is, and how to get in touch. By doing so, political advertisers can help keep the electorate informed and engaged, and better contribute to the national conversation.

Want to learn more?

If you think your company or campaign might have obligations under the Principles, feel free to reach out to the Digital Advertising Accountability Program for a confidential consultation. And if you’re a voter who sees a political ad or targeted ad without these icons, feel free to file a complaint.