European Union Does Not Fear New Political Ad Rules Impacting Brands

New policies are set to be introduced to ban political microtargeting and the use of children's data

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Despite introducing new tougher rules around political advertising across Europe this week, policymakers do not fear any overreaching negative impact upon commercial advertisers and their messaging.

Following a consultation, the European Union (EU) has this week released its new rules for political advertising to bring more transparency to elections and to push back against previous claims of international interference.

The new policies aim to bring more transparency to the targeting of political advertising, including a ban on online adverts carrying out microtargeting, alongside additional sanctions for breaches and shorter deadlines when investigating potential breaches, the need for which came to light during the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the Brexit referendum.

Changes made to the proposal include the requirement that only personal data provided for online political advertising can be used by campaigners, which will prevent the targeting of consumers based on their individual interests. The new regulations will apply to formats from banner ads to videos across the EU. 

A blanket ban on the use of children’s data has also been included.

In September, the former director for public policy for IAB Europe, Greg Mroczkowski, warned that it was “unclear” how the introduction of these policies would affect online targeting for non-political ads as well as publishers and third-party tech providers.

Mroczkowski also suggested that it was not known how the regulation of ad delivery and ad targeting concepts would interact, potentially impacting commercial advertising depending on the wording of the messages they carried.

“Small and independent publishers will often have limited or no technical capabilities of handling ad-related data processing, including for contextual ads,” Mroczkowski also warned.

He added that the definition of “political advertising” would also be key when defining what would be governed by the new rules.

Sandro Gozi, a member of the EU and who represents the political group Renew Europe, said in a statement: “Our challenge is to combat more effectively all forms of disinformation and external interference in our democratic processes while preserving the openness that characterizes the European public debate.”

The aim is that the report will stamp out false claims made within political advertising and be introduced ahead of the next EU Parliamentary elections that are expected to take place at some point next year.

“This report will make abusive online political advertising a thing of the past by making it impossible to prey on people’s specific weaknesses. It will also make political actors more accountable for the adverts they disseminate. And when rules are broken, we will be able to impose better sanctions in an equal way across the EU,” he added.

Speaking to Adweek, Gozi said that he did not fear any impact on commercial advertisers following the policy changes to political ads.

“We want to make sure we draw a very clear, understandable and legally viable distinction between what is political advertising and what is commercial advertising,” he explained, claiming that the scope of the regulation and the definition of political advertising was something that the EU has worked “at length” on.

He continued that the implementation of the regulation would not be limited to “official political actors” (for example, someone standing for election to the European parliament), but to any advertising message pushing propaganda.

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