National Advertising Division (NAD)

Advertising Self-Regulation Reaches the 2020 Election Cycle: BBB National Programs Watchdog Releases Latest Political Ads Report

For Immediate Release

Contact: Jim Boyle, jboyle@bbbnp.org, 571-213-3979

 

Arlington, VA –April 14, 2020– Building upon its longstanding work in the digital privacy arena, BBB National Programs’ Digital Advertising Accountability Program (DAAP) today published its second report on 2020 trends in political advertising. The report provides a snapshot of political advertising in a 2020 campaign season that has been disrupted by the impact of the novel coronavirus, as well as a look at advertisers’ compliance with the Digital Advertising Alliance’s Political Advertising Principles, published in 2018 and enforced by DAAP.

In this latest report, DAAP found that, of 348 political advertisements reviewed, the substantial majority—some 234 ads, or 67%—were found on social media platforms. The data suggests that political advertisers continue to perceive social media platforms as major touchpoints for communicating with potential voters. DAAP also found an uptick in “negative” ads, or ones that oppose specific candidates—a total of 64 compared with 45 last time.

Compliance with the Political Advertising Principles’ transparency requirements remains incomplete. DAAP saw that although no advertisers reached full compliance, 311 ads (89%) contained some form of enhanced notice—an icon or wording indicating that the ad is a political advertisement. Further, 282 (81%) provided some of the information such as the advertiser’s name, contact information, and other relevant data that are called for by the Principles.

“To candidates running for elected office in the US, the emergence of smartphones and social media as the major means by which the American public communicates has been a game-changer, enabling new channels to deliver political ads to potential voters,” said Jon Brescia, Vice President, DAAP. “Certainly, the COVID-19 crisis looms over everything right now, but researchers at eMarketer predict that the 2020 digital political ad spend will cross the billion dollar mark as campaigns aim to get their supporters to the polls.”

But with the power—and the money—to reach voters across the Internet comes with the responsibility to offer transparency about the origins of political ads. The Digital Advertising Alliance’s Political Advertising Principles are best practices for providing voters with access to information about political ads that support or oppose particular candidates for office. And DAAP, known for its work in the digital privacy space, began monitoring websites and mobile apps this year to help ensure that online political advertisements—regardless of position or party affiliation—comply with the Political Advertising Principles.

Under the Principles, political advertisers advocating for or against a particular candidate must clearly provide enhanced notice of the political nature of the ad in the form of an icon or a hyperlink. This enhanced notice must take users to a disclosure that describes who paid for the ad, how to contact them, and links to a relevant database of political ad contributions and expenditures. These transparency tools provide voters with information they need to assess political ads and make decisions at the polls. With this expansion of DAAP’s mission, political advertisers who do not comply with these practices could be contacted by the DAAP and reported on its public-facing website. As with DAAP’s work in the digital privacy space, advertisers who refuse to comply with these best practices may be reported to the appropriate government agency.

Since its creation, the BBB National Programs’ DAAP has issued more than 100 actions enforcing consumer privacy in digital advertising and has built a reputation for fairness. This new compliance initiative aims to replicate the success of the DAAP’s privacy mission for interest-based advertising in the evolving area of online political advertising.

To learn more about BBB National Programs’ DAAP, the DAA Political Advertising Principles, and to reach out proactively about compliance, please contact accountability@bbbnp.org.

 

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ABOUT BBB NATIONAL PROGRAMS: BBB National Programs is a non-profit that fosters trust, innovation, and competition in the marketplace through the development and delivery of cost-effective, third-party self-regulation, dispute resolution and other programs. BBB National Programs is where businesses turn to enhance consumers’ trust and consumers are heard. BBB National Programs is the home of leading industry self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs that include the National Advertising Division (NAD), National Advertising Review Board (NARB), BBB EU Privacy Shield, BBB AUTO LINE, Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), Children’s Confection Advertising Initiative (CCAI), Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC), Digital Advertising Accountability Program (Accountability Program), and the Coalition for Better Advertising Dispute Resolution Program (CBA DRM). The programs are designed to resolve business issues and advance shared objectives by responding to marketplace concerns to create a better customer experience. To learn more about industry self-regulation, please visit: BBBNP.org.

About the BBB National Programs Digital Advertising Accountability Program: The Digital Advertising Accountability Program (DAAP), a division of BBB National Programs, protects consumers' privacy online by providing independent, third-party enforcement of cross-industry best practices governing the collection and use of data in online interest-based advertising. DAAP also provides guidance to companies looking to come into compliance with the Digital Advertising Alliance’s principles and responds to complaints filed by consumers about online privacy.