2013 is already proving to be another turbulent year for Washington D.C., and many of us can’t help but keep watching with bated breath for the latest action or debate to come out of it.  And there’s no question that the regulatory and enforcement environment today is heightened across all industry sectors, even while Congress seems unable to reach agreement on any much of the legislation before it.  For marketers and advertisers, the moves made by the Obama Administration on a variety of issues will have profound implications, as we saw with the sequestration debate, privacy, tax code reform, new appointees, and more.

This year’s Association of National Advertisers Advertising Law & Public Policy Conference will focus on the major issues that are keeping marketers and advertisers up at night in light of the current realities in the federal and state governments.  For now, I share my excitement for the annual conference; after, I look forward to sharing my thoughts and key takeaways from what promise to be countless insightful and intriguing debates and discussions.

The Way I See It

  • I see many of the topics we’ve been discussing here on Madison Ave Insights under the microscope at the ANA Conference: privacy, tax reform, self-regulation, COPPA, social media, data collection and protection, FTC enforcement actions.  I see the opportunity to engage with and learn from my peers in the advertising and legal professions, discussing these cutting-edge issues of today and implications for the present and future of the industry.
  • I see an annual gathering of the industry leaders including in-house and outside counsel, government officials, agency executives, and public policy experts who are driving the dialogue on the very regulatory issues at hand coming together for a meeting of the minds – who knows what could happen.
  • This year, there are keynote addresses from Senator Mark Pryor, Chairman of the Communications, Technology and Internet Subcommittee; FTC Commissioner Julie Brill, who we interviewed here on Madison Ave Insights a few months ago; Doug Gansler, Attorney General of Maryland and current President of the National Association of Attorneys General; and Fadi Chehadé, President and CEO of ICANN.

The Way the Industry Sees It

I sat down with Dan Jaffe, Group Executive Vice President for Government Relations for the ANA, who is a conference co-chair, featured speaker, and industry and government veteran, to discuss what to expect from this year’s conference and get a preview of his thoughts on some of the main issues.

 

The program for this year’s conference is exceptional. What are you most looking forward to at this year’s conference?

I certainly agree that we’ve put together an outstanding program for the year.  I’m particularly looking forward to the vast array of issues that will be covered.  From ad tax issues to patent trolls, to privacy, to the expansion of Top Level Domains on the Internet, our conference will feature some of the major issues facing advertisers in 2013.  We will also be covering the treatment of women in advertising nationally and internationally, which is an important issue that I do not think has been covered very often or very well.

You will be presenting the “Report from Washington” with updates on tax reform, food advertising, advertising to children, self-regulation, online piracy, tobacco court cases, and other hot issues that are evolving in Washington as we speak.  Can you give readers a teaser regarding industry implications moving forward on some of the issues you’ll be addressing?

I will be particularly focusing on ad taxes, the efforts of various groups to undermine the ability to carry out Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA), and the effort to explosively expand the Top Level Domain system on the Internet.  Any one of these issues could severely impact the interests of the Internet and the public.  An underlying theme that I try to emphasize in my speech is that there are major fundamental societal forces driving many of the challenges facing our industry.  For example, the controversy over OBA would not exist without serious concerns by the public about hacking, misuse of locational data, and the sensitivity of financial and health information.  Food marketing would not be under fire if not for a genuine obesity epidemic cutting across many demographics.  I argue that the ad community must be proactive in responding to the threats facing us.  Companies must be doing everything possible to ensure they are in compliance with current regulations and laws.  Additionally, we have to commit ourselves to powerful self-regulation.  Self-regulation with teeth is the only sure method for holding back overly restrictive regulations on our industry.

You spent over a decade on congressional staffs, including as Committee Counsel to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.  How has the purview of the Committee changed since your time there, and what are the most significant ways that Congress has changed (or not changed) that have had an impact on advertisers and marketers—as well as on its ability to enact legislation on the whole?

The purview of the Committee has not changed substantially, but changes in society and the marketplace have created major new agendas.  Technology clearly has advanced considerably since my time at the Committee.  The explosion of the Internet and mobile devices in the last twenty years has been so large and moved so fast that the Congress and regulatory agencies have struggled to keep up with the pace.  The 24-hour news cycle and the growth of social media have completely changed how Congress reacts, or some might say overreacts, to issues.   And it goes without saying that the Congress is less and less able to reach a deal on anything.  Part of that is pure partisanship.  There’s also the increasing influence of outside groups in campaigning.  Even a little compromise can be used as a sword against members in their next primary battles.  When I was on the Hill, political battles were fierce, but after the battle, the warring sides were often, in fact, close friends at both the leadership and staff levels.  That has become rare, unfortunately.  Also, with political cliffhangers becoming the rule and not the exception, we can never be sure when or to what extent we will be hit.

You’ve been a huge advocate for expanding the First Amendment protection of advertising, among other major industry issues in recent year.  Please explain your stance on the issue and why it has become so important for you, as well as how you see it evolving or advancing in the next year or so.

Nearly 40 years ago, the Supreme Court concluded that advertising was strongly protected by the First Amendment.  Since that time, ANA and other industry groups have been active and successful in getting the Supreme Court to focus on developing rigorous tests for restricting commercial speech and courts have been wary of any attempt to control or restrict speech in advertising.  These protections are an absolutely critical safety net for the ad community as we continue to be barraged by broad efforts to restrict an ever-widening range of categories.

What is the coolest object in your office right now?

My computer.  It allows me to access an almost infinite amount of information from all over the world in a matter of seconds.  And while we already take this fact for granted, broad Internet access has only been commonplace for a relatively short number of years.  It has completely changed the way the world does business, including the ad community.