Is online advertising in the EU about to change forever?

Part 2: We look at what the legislation might mean for campaign managers

 

Dramatic changes to the way advertisers run their online promotions are set to come into force in Europe. Changes to the existing legislation won’t just impact Europeans but anyone wanting to advertise in Europe and from Europe. 

In our previous blog, we presented the current status and possible developments of the EU’s new laws on political advertising, whose main objective is to allow the online audience to easily recognise when they are being shown paid political content. 

While the ball is still in the court of the co-legislators, let us look at the possible tangible repercussions for both the advertisers and the platforms. 

What the new EU rules may mean in practice 

 

Disclaimers are here to stay. Formal statements such as Facebook and Instagram’s disclaimers for ads about social issues, elections or politics are likely to become a must when running political ads in/from Europe. Although Meta already has advertising policies that go in this direction, the platform may need to broaden the scope of its disclaimers to encompass all the information requested by the EU authorities. Looking at Twitter and TikTok – already banning political ads – the platforms may need to revisit the scope of their restrictions. LinkedIn, which does not restrain political or cause-based advertising at present, is also expected to enforce disclaimers and update its advertising policies for Europe.  

On their end, advertisers may need to deal with more burdensome campaign set up processes, especially if platforms decide to follow the example of Meta: Meta platforms already require campaigners working on social issues, elections or politics to either be based in or be a national of the member state(s) where the campaign is set to run. This is to exclude any risk of foreign interference. 

Targeting may face limitations. Targeting as we know it might look very different, following the regulation. In fact, the Parliament proposes to limit the processing of personal data to what has been provided by the user; also, they prescribe that data “observed or inferred” should be forbidden. Of course, these prescriptions would apply to advertising classified as political. 

Advertisers may therefore need to rethink the way they build their targeting pool. For instance, ‘age’ and ‘gender’ parameters on LinkedIn might disappear from Campaign Manager, as they fall into the category of inferred data. Retargeting might also be in trouble, if deemed to fall under the scope of observed personal data. 

Expect a longer review process – and more take downs. The more requirements to comply with, the lengthier the ads’ review processes. At least in the short term, it is likely that all ads – political and non-political – will be stuck in ‘pending review’ a little longer than the average 24 hours. 

For advertisers, this would mean they should set up their campaigns with greater advance. At the same time, they should stand ready to follow up on possible take downs more often than usual, as the EU is urging a prompt reaction by the platforms in case of unlawful political advertisements. 

A library for political advertising in Europe. Both the Commission and Parliament are keen on establishing a “European library for political advertisements”, in other words a structured repository for any political ad under the scope of the regulation. The platforms may be required to keep a track record of all versions of a political ad – complete with its disclaimer information – from 5 to 15 years. Advertisers should therefore be aware of the long-lasting footprint their campaigns may have. 

So, any organisation looking to advertise around key European issues will need to plan ahead and organise well. With our expertise on social platforms and offices in many European markets, we at FleishmanHillard are well placed to provide counsel and guide you through the ever-changing social media landscape. 

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    Arianna is a Social Strategist in the Integrated Communications and Reputation team. Before joining FleishmanHillard, she was an Associate Project Manager at White Research, where she provided communication consulting services in the field of sustainability, health and nutrition and digital affairs. She also worked as...

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  • Cloe Roycroft

    Cloe leads FH Brussels’ digital and social team as well as being the lead on major global client accounts. A specialist at operationalising reputation strategies across social media and online, she now has over 10 years of experience at some of the UK and Europe’s...

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