The issues advertisers keep an eye on in DC doesn’t change that much, but what is changing is the political, regulatory and tech environment.
“The overlap of regulatory issues and agencies is becoming far more complex and not clear cut,” said Dan Jaffe, executive vice president of government relations for the Association of National Advertisers. “That’s happened because of the convergence of media.”
And there’s the new Congress. For the last two sessions, Congress had been gridlocked. But now that Republicans control both chambers, activity has picked up. With the 2016 Presidential election looming, the GOP would like to show they can govern.
“The desire to move legislation is much higher now than in the last four year,” Jaffe said. “Republicans have something to prove.”
Here are some of the top issues on the ANA’s agenda for its annual advertising law and public policy conference Tuesday and Wednesday.
Ad tax deduction: It’s been a target before and it could be a target again. Broad tax reform is back in Congress and while any reform may be a heavy lift, advertisers need to stay close to this issue. In the last Congress, two proposals would have limited how advertising dollars could be deducted in the year it was spent, reversing the long-established practice of treating advertising as an ordinary cost of business.
Data breach, data security: Nothing can besmirch a brand quicker than a data breach. Target got hacked and suffered bad press and declining sales. A number of bills are being considered in Congress that would set a national standard for how and when companies notify consumers of a breach. These bills also require “reasonable” data security standards, to be set by the FTC.
Privacy: Never goes away. While the Obama privacy bill of rights fizzled, there are still bills kicking around that could limit data collection and data sharing. The FTC has also put mobile in its privacy sights.
Net neutrality: The FCC’s order has hidden repercussions for advertisers and marketers. It all depends on how the FCC extends its privacy authority to broadband and mobile Internet providers, and how much that would affect the FTC’s authority. Lawsuits are inevitable, creating an uncertain Internet regulatory environment for two to three years.
Patent trolls: If you think you’re having déjà vu, you are. Patent reform got very close last year. What’s different now: Sen. Harry Reid, who killed it last year, has lame-ducked himself. There’s new momentum, but there is heightened opposition from groups worried that patent reform would hurt innovators.
Ad fraud: Piracy, bots, and malware will steal more than $6 billion from digital advertisers this year, according to White Ops. To fight back, industry last fall recently formed the Trustworthy Accountability Group. TAG’s new chief, Mike Zaneis, will give an update on what TAG is doing to win the war for digital ad accountability.
New top level domain names: More than 617 new top level domains, from dot-plumbing to dot-sucks, are being introduced through the end of 2015. For national advertisers with a deep stable of brands to protect, the prospect of shelling out fees for each and every brand to keep it away from TLDs like dot-sucks is a headache and a distraction.
Marketing to children. So far it’s been rather quiet. The FTC has brought only one Coppa case and bills in Congress have yet to break out. That doesn’t mean activity won’t pick up, especially for certain categories like e-cigarettes.