Make Digital The Most Accountable Platform In Political Advertising

Much has been written about online political advertising in recent elections. Important questions are being raised about the integrity of our democracy and how new digital channels might be helping or hurting. Yet, there is much confusion about the facts and how these platforms work. While we must address the real challenges - from fake news to interference from foreign actors - we believe that in order to create a better advertising environment for political campaigns, we must better define and agree upon the primary challenges and create an actionable path to address them. If we do so, there is no reason digital cannot become the most accountable platform in all of political advertising. 

As leading digital marketers for political campaigns over the past decade, we understand both the challenges and opportunity. Below is our understanding of the crux of the problem and a recommended set of guidelines to drive a path forward. 

The main challenges that we see in the online political ad market are: 

  1. The difficulty in ascertaining what organization is running each ad, what ads are being run, and what each group really stands for. 
  2. Fake accounts and bots that impersonate voters and stifle discourse. 
  3. Distribution of political information and news by non-campaign entities and actors through online paid advertising. 

As the most interactive advertising medium, digital can set a new standard for accountability — even more than TV or direct mail. By focusing on paid marketing, we can do so without restricting the First Amendment. We support the work being done by our advertising partners to drive more transparency and understanding around how digital ads are distributed. To guide a modern approach to the future of paid political communications, we have outlined the below recommendations.  

To guide a modern approach to future regulation of political communications, we have outlined 4 pillars of what we believe any future regulation should include.

Entity Verification

Sign Your Name

Support Digital Accountability In Political Advertising

OUR RECOMMENDATION

For political advertisers, it is important that the companies behind online advertising platforms verify the legal organizational identity of the end client (not just the advertising agency).

Enhanced Advertising Disclosure

OUR RECOMMENDATION

As the only interactive medium, digital has the opportunity 
to set a new standard beyond TV and mail on ad disclosure. 
This would take the form of a new disclosure icon that is 
visible alongside every political ad run online — including 
search, social, video, and native ads as well as every social 
media account whether controlled by humans or algorithms. 
This would allow people to see critical information about the sponsor including:

  • Legal disclaimer
  • Short description of the organization’s purpose

Centralized Reporting

OUR RECOMMENDATION

As part of this enhanced disclosure, we support ad platforms publicly housing all of the creative being served by an advertiser in one central place so that voters can understand all of the messages a group is promoting. Additionally, we recommend that campaigns be required to disclose digital ad spend by month and eventually by week.

A PROJECT OF BULLY PULPIT INTERACTIVE

Bully Pulpit Interactive (BPI) is a digitally based marketing and communications agency that wins hearts and changes minds for companies and causes. We communicate without barriers and measure what matters. We specialize in public affairs, corporate reputation and social impact. We simplify the complex, shift public opinion, manage in a crisis, position brands and drive effective global campaigns for our clients. Since we started in 2009, we have applied the lessons of politics to brands and supported over 400 clients across multiple continents. These include 8% of FORTUNE 100 companies, Presidents, Senators and Prime Ministers, as well as several of the top non-profits around the world.  www.bpimedia.com 

We are asking those in the political advertising industry to sign onto these recommended guidelines. We are actively seeking supporters and new ideas and welcome your feedback on this important topic. Please share your support below.

How You Can Help

We recognize that these are just the first steps to greater accountability as these ecosystems are rapidly evolving and new channels will certainly emerge. While more discussion is necessary, we believe that the adoption of these initial guidelines is both achievable and will have a dramatic effect in restoring confidence in political communications online. 

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SEE ADVERTISING EXAMPLES BELOWBACK TO SECTION

As the only interactive medium, digital has the opportunity 
to set a new standard beyond TV and mail on ad disclosure. 
This would take the form of a new disclosure icon that is 
visible alongside every political ad run online — including 
search, social, video, and native ads as well as every social 
media account whether controlled by humans or algorithms. 




 
This would allow people to see critical information about the sponsor including:

  • Legal disclaimer
  • Short description of the organization’s purpose
Button

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

Ad Disclosure

Insert Search Headline Here

www.loremipsum.com

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Phasellus dictum quam justo. Etiam imperdiet at neque ac posuere. Sed at porttitor lorem. Integer ac fringilla quam.

Ad

Search Ad

DISCLOSURE ICON:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Phasellus dictum quam justo. Etiam imperdiet at neque ac posuere. Sed at porttitor lorem.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.

Button

Jane Doe

Facebook Sponsored Ad

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300x250 Display Ad

300x50 Mobile Display Ad

BACK TO SECTION

Insert Search Headline Here

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Search Ad

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Ad Disclosure

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Stop Use of Bots that Impersonate Voters

OUR RECOMMENDATION

Fake social accounts run by bots that attempt to mimic the appearance of actual voters inherently undermines the principle of thoughtful disagreement in our democracy stems from voters speaking to one another. Campaigns should not be allowed to use bots without clear disclosure.

Sample Disclosure Icon

Examples of Online Advertising with Enhanced Disclosure

Examples of Online Advertising with Enhanced Disclosure

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