The DAA Political Ad Icon: Help Every Digital and Mobile Political Ad for Statewide and Federal Office Provide Real-Time Disclosures for Voter Transparency

September 14, 2022

Big Idea: The same fervor and framework that helped us deliver real-time, on-demand privacy notices for online interest-based advertising trillions of times can do the same for digital political ads – to deliver campaign disclosures to voters effectively

Amid this 2022 Election – with primaries among states having just completed – the Digital Advertising Alliance has undertaken program enhancements in our Political Ads Program, which I’d like to share with you here.

When we first launched the Application of Principles of Transparency and Accountability to Political Advertising (pdf) and an accompanying voter education site in 2018, many ad tech companies built it into their own platforms to help their political campaign and agency clients deliver the Political Ad icon () and required disclosure on races called out by the Principles. Some political advertising organizations, too, reached out to leverage the icon directly (no charge, just a licensing agreement to sign).

Image 1. The Political Ad Icon and Marker placement.

The icon and optional “Political Ad” wording (also in Spanish) on the marker should link to disclosures that include:

  • Name of the political advertiser;
  • Phone number, address, website, or alternative and reliable contact information for the advertiser;
  • Link to a government database of contributions and expenditures for the advertiser, if applicable;
  • Name(s) of the advertiser’s CEO, executive committee, board of directors or treasurer,
  • Any disclaimers required by state or federal law, if the ad itself is too small to display them (as permitted by applicable law); and
  • Other information required by applicable federal or state law for such notices.

Image 2: Sample Political Ad with Rollover Disclosure, with Additional Links.

Our accountability organizations – BBB National Programs and ANA Center for Ethical Marketing – initiated oversight in 2020, and while millions of such notices have been served, we learned where we could make improvements to make the process of providing this critical transparency even easier for political advertisers, their agencies, ad tech partners, publishers and others in the supply chain. Every eligible political ad, online and in mobile, should be accompanied by the Political Ad icon, which we again license for free to advertisers (directly and via their agents). Clicking or hovering over that icon should enable the corresponding access to transparency disclosures called for in the Principles.

So in consultation with several companies and in cooperation with our global partner in Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada – which also has a version of Political Ads Principles, we’ve undertaken three program enhancements to make adherence to the Principles easier for political advertisers of varying sizes and their ad networks:

  • A self-service platform (with onboarding and training support), where each political advertiser (or their agency or ad partner) can enable icon and disclosure delivery tagged to each and every political ad by the advertiser, the campaign, and the creative they handle.
  • An application programming interface (API) that enables the same, which many demand-side platforms might choose to use, complement or integrate with their own programmatic offering in support of DAA Principles.
  • A public Political Ad registry service – available both to self-service and API users – which many demand-side and other ad tech platforms might choose to use, complement, or integrate.

A recent webinar DAA organized with our counsel at Venable LLP, and with MediaMath, and Campaigns & Elections magazine showcases these enhancements, their functionality and their benefits. A recording is available here.

DAA Political Ad Platform participants can load all the advertiser data in advance, to support icon placement and disclosure rollover/hover notice or landing page delivery for each and every creative, by campaign and by the advertiser. They also can add new advertisers, or make disclosure changes as they happen. Users also can add survey questions in their rollover/hover experience and in disclosure landing pages for polling, and receive mapping reports on where ad and icon impressions are being served.

For political advertisers in the Canadian market, the DAA-offered platform (and API) also supports a broader definition of political advertising, including issue-based ads. As a result, the Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada also allows advertisers to select  “Why this Ad?”, “Ad Info”, and “Paid for by” as acceptable texts (in English and French) alongside the Political Ad icon.

Image 3. Inside the DAA Political Ads Platform.

Importantly, both self-service platform and API users can access a new political ad registry service – where ad tech, demand-side platforms (DSPs) and other industry users can enable a voting-public-facing registry on their own. The registry is hosted and maintained by DAA, it is specific to each company, and can be publicly displayed as a subdomain on a corporate-owned site. We built this service in coordination with advice from counsel and program participants, as California and Washington (among U.S. states), and Canada has implemented political ad registry or database laws which include such requirements of political advertisers, publishers and/or online platforms to aid in voter transparency. 

We share that goal of voter transparency. The Principles and the tools we continue to improve meet the spirit of transparent disclosures in an on-demand, real-time, in-ad manner – just as they do with privacy transparency using the AdChoices icon.

Get started here. Additionally, you may contact DAA via email.


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