Programmatic Micro-Influencer Marketing and Politics

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As election year 2020 approaches, influencer marketing companies are gearing up for a tangled web of compliance issues that come into play for political campaigns. Programmatic advertising, or using digital targeted ads to reach voters, influencers and constituents based on data about their preferences, is the default strategy for most political parties in the US and abroad.

The issue with influencer marketing and elections revolves around laws that require political ads to be financed by US citizens. The ban on political contributions and expenditures by foreign nationals was first enacted in 1966 as part of the amendments to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), an “internal security” statute. The goal of the FARA was to minimize foreign intervention in U.S. elections by establishing a series of limitations on foreign nationals. These included registration requirements for the agents of foreign principals and a general prohibition on political contributions by foreign nationals. In 1974, the prohibition was incorporated into the Federal Election Campaign Act (the FECA), giving the Federal Election Commission (FEC) jurisdiction over its enforcement and interpretation.

As micro-influencer and celebrity-sponsored ads become increasingly prevalent, questions remain about whether or not foreign nationals can create ads or otherwise campaign for political candidates.*

Election ads are those that feature a federal candidate or current elected federal officeholder in the United States. Elected federal offices include those of the President and Vice President of the United States, and members of the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate. The following applies to election ads in the United States:

All election ads must show a disclosure that identifies who has paid for the ad. The advertiser is responsible for including a “Paid for by” disclosure directly in the ad creative, followed by the name of the organization or individual paying for the ad.

These policies don’t apply to ads for products or services, including promotional political merchandise like t-shirts, or to ads run by news organizations to promote their coverage of federal election campaigns, candidates, or current elected federal officeholders.

Brand safety is a top priority for Reloquence. Here are steps you can take to ensure you stay within the bounds of the laws governing paid sponsorship ads:

  • Evaluate whether or not the ad is political. If it is, ensure that the influencer is not a foreign national.

  • Co-create a sponsored ad with a micro-influencer that sends your message in a compelling, engaging way.

  • Engage with new audiences on social media during your micro-influencer marketing campaign while identifying the post or video as an #ad according the FTC paid sponsorship regulations.

  • Disclose by including the “Paid for by” statement for election ads. If the format of the ad is video, make sure that your disclosure is visible during the entire duration of your video.

  • Repurpose your high impact ad on your own channels for maximum reach and engagement on social media using the same disclosure formats.

*Reloquence is not accepting political clients at this time, but will provide regular updates on compliance issues leading up to election year 2020 as a public service.