The 4A's Washington team provided members with strategic insights on how to prepare for a markedly tight media inventory environment–dominated by an unprecedented volume of negative political advertising during the 2012 general election year.
We also continued to effectively advance the agency business agenda across a number of issues at the state and federal levels including advertising tax deductibility, consumer data privacy, patent trolling and children's advertising.
4A's Washington is a founding member of the Advertising Coalition, a cooperative of advertising, media and publishing organizations based in Washington, DC and unified in their defense of advertising deductibility. Throughout 2012, 4A's Washington participated in an outreach campaign to key members of Congress who decide tax and finance matters on the House Ways and Means, House Budget, Senate Finance and other key Congressional committees. Outreach included letters, mobilizing local agency members and grassroots meetings.
Anti-piracy and Anti-counterfeiting
Two bills, "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) and the "Protect Intellectual Property Act" (PIPA), that attempted to address the concern of "rogue" websites – online operations that market fraudulent goods or services or emulate known brand names without authorization, were withdrawn after swift and widespread grassroots opposition from the online community.
4A's Washington responded by collaborating with the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) to develop a "Statement of Best Practices to Address Online Piracy and Counterfeiting."
Child Obesity Prevention
2012 saw renewed attention on the issue of child obesity – led by First Lady Michelle Obama and including Congress and the FTC. Congress called upon four federal agencies, Center for Disease Control, Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission ("Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children") to make policy recommendations. They conducted research and then formulated a set of marketing restrictions for foods high in sugar, salt or unsaturated fat.
Through its involvement in the multi-party coalition, the Alliance for American Advertising (AAA), 4A's Washington successfully lobbied to de-fund the IAWG and make its restrictions unenforceable.
Consumer Data Privacy
The top consumer protection issue of 2012 was data privacy – the collection and use of consumer data in targeting web-based and mobile advertising. The 4A's anticipated this scrutiny by becoming a founding member of the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA). Since launching online in October 2010, the DAA Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA) has become the de facto standard for effective consumer privacy protection in interest-based advertising. Notable highlights in 2012:
• The DAA program had its most significant growth with broad market adoption by several hundreds of participating advertising companies.
• The first calendar year that the DAA's inaugural consumer education website (www.youradchoices.com) and advertising campaign ("Will The Right Ads Find You?") were deployed.
• YourAdChoices.com received visits from over 12 million individual consumers, expanding awareness of privacy controls available to consumers.
• The "Will the Right Ads Find You" banner campaign was served via 2 billion ad impressions, all of which pointed to www.youradchoices.com
The FTC and Congressional policy makers also focused on the "Do-Not-Track" (DNT) initiative in the browser standards community. This initiative began in 2012 and poses potential restrictions on data collection and use by websites and ad networks and within mobile applications. The 4A's Washington advocacy on this issue included becoming a member of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to assure a more balanced outcome in the DNT standards development process.
The 4A's joined with fellow associations, businesses and some consumer advocates in opposition to Microsoft's unilateral decision to set "Do-Not-Track" consumer control to default-ON in their newest Web browser, Internet Explorer v10 and published a bulletin to 4A's members informing them of the potential impacts of the Microsoft announcement and the broader DNT initiative.
Patent assertion entities (known euphemistically as "patent trolls") became more aggressive in 2012 in asserting ownership rights over many of the basic technologies, tools and techniques that agencies use in the development of digital ad campaigns and/or client websites. With a lack of clear indemnification between agencies and their clients in service agreements, agencies are exposed to costly patent litigation.
In coordination with the 4A's Agency Management Services, 4A's Washington launched a two-pronged strategy in 2012 to begin to actively combat patent trolling by advocating in Congress for legislative solutions that more purposefully address the troll threat; and, in the federal court system, by evaluating key patent cases for potential participation.
The 4A's Washington staff brought a member delegation to meet with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) in Washington, 4A's signed on to an amicus brief ("friend of the Court" statements to the presiding judge or judges' panel) in the Apple v. Motorola patent case, and pursued meetings with the intellectual property (IP) policy leaders at the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice to further inform these regulators on the agency perspective.
During 2012, 4A's Washington mobilized local 4A's members (both directly and through regional boards and councils) to address and illustrate the negative impacts of legislative proposals for new or expanded scope of taxation of advertising and advertising-related services within their jurisdictions, including Missouri and Texas.