FEC Offers Examples of Online Ad Disclaimers
At the end of June, the Federal Election Commission will hold a hearing on proposed rule changes for online ad disclaimers. In advance of the meeting, the Commissioners released a series of example ads that highlight how disclaimers would look with rules from each proposal.
The FEC created 18 graphic ad examples that range from a 720×300 banner to an 88×31 microbar. Each example provides explanations if the disclaimers met the criteria established in both Alternative A and Alternative B proposals.
Remember that there are two big distinctions between Alternative A and Alternative B:
- Alternative A applies the current regulations that exist for radio, TV, and print ads and extends them to online ads without much flexibility. This includes the “stand by your ad” requirements for radio and TV.
- Alternative B is designed with flexibility so that confusing situations won’t have to wait on advisory opinions. It includes the “paid for by” and “authorized/not authorized disclaimers.” It also includes tiers of disclaimer requirements in case space or time does not allow for a full disclaimer.
Both proposals offer additional adapted disclaimer options when regular disclaimers won’t work:
- Alternative A adaptive disclaimer: The adapted disclaimer can be used when “external character or space constraints” that are “intrinsic to the technological medium” prohibit the full disclaimer. The adapted disclaimer requires the name of the entity paying for the ad, a clear indicator that additional information is available, and a “technological mechanism” to connect to that disclaimer.
- Alternative B adaptive disclaimer: The adapted disclaimer creates a bright-line rule that it can be used if more than 10% of the ad’s space or time is taken up by the full disclaimer. The adapted disclaimer must include the name of the sponsor or common abbreviation, an indicator that a full disclaimer is available elsewhere, and a “technological mechanism” to connect to the full disclaimer.
Both Requirements Met for Alternatives A and B
This 720×300 px ad with a disclaimer that takes up 10% of spaces meets the requirements of both proposals:
- Does the full disclaimer appear on the face of this ad? Yes.
- Is the full disclaimer of sufficient type size to be clearly readable? Yes.
- Does the disclaimer satisfy the requirements under Alternative A? Yes.
- Does Alternative A require that the full disclaimer be used here? Yes, because no external character or space constraints preclude this advertisement from accommodating a full disclaimer on its face.
- Full disclaimer: Does the full disclaimer appear on the face of this ad? Yes.
- Is the full disclaimer clear and conspicuous? Yes.
- Does the disclaimer satisfy the requirements under Alternative B? Yes.
- Does Alternative B require that the full disclaimer be used here? Yes, because a clear and conspicuous disclaimer does not take up more than 10% of the ad.
Acceptable Under Alternative A
This 250×250 px ad with 25% of space taken up by the disclaimer would meet the Alternative A requirements. Because the full disclaimer can fit on the face of the ad, an adapted disclaimer would not be allowed.
Alternative A’s Adapted Disclaimer Triggered
Another example demonstrates how an ad might trigger Alternative A’s adapted disclaimer. This 120×240 px ad has a disclaimer that takes up 34% of available space. It would not be approved because the disclaimer takes up too much space. This would allow Alternative A’s adapted disclaimer to be used.
Since the full disclaimer in the ad above takes up too much space, the adapted disclaimer for Alternative A can be used. Under these rules, only the name of the ad’s sponsor needs to be displayed with a clear indicator (the circle with an i) that provides additional information. This ad would also meet the requirements of Alternative B’s adapted disclaimer.
Alternative B’s Adapted Disclaimer
The same 120×240 px size was used to demonstrate a disclaimer taking up 10% of the ad. While the ad clearly does not meet the requirements of Alternative A, it also doesn’t meet those of Alternative B because the disclaimer language is not easily read. This ad would be allowed to use Alternative B’s adapted disclaimer because the full disclaimer would take up more than 10% of the face if the font was large enough to easily read.
The ad on the right would meet the requirements for Alternative B’s adapted disclaimer. It includes the payer’s name as well as an indicator. (The words “Paid for by” are linked to a page with the full disclaimer language.)
If your campaign or PAC plans on placing online ads in the next few cycles, please read through the full proposal and view all 18 example ads that present various scenarios. The FEC will hold a hearing on the proposals at the June 27 meeting. It’s not known when the a vote will be held, so please look for updates.