Identifying Advertising: A Proposal.

There’s a lot of discussion these days about Facebook ads and Twitter ads and Russian bots and every other complication you can think of plaguing today’s U.S. society. So I’m proposing a solution to try to get a handle on this.

I still need a snappy name, but basically it’s a “U.S. Real Advertising Identification Law” (RAIL doesn’t really get headlines though).

Basically, it’d work like this:

  • All advertising or promotion must be identified as an advertisement. The media in which the advertisement is delivered doesn’t matter. All advertisements must be “bordered” in some way: visual ads must be bordered with a red, unobstructed border around the entire ad and audio ads must be prefaced with “This is an advertisement” presented in a natural, non-time-compressed, unobscured, standard reading. The visual borders would be standardized regardless of advertiser. One standard shade of red. Black and white ads would used a “hashed” pattern border. The audio “borders” would use standardized language. It doesn’t matter if it’s a political ad, an ad for snack food, or an ad for the latest rage in pharmaceuticals. All ads: red border for visuals and an introductory line for audio ads.
  • All advertising must identify the name of advertiser and the country of origin. These would be similar to the “Paid for by ..” tags on all political ads, but would be a requirement for EVERY ad appearing on ALL media. Any ad with an audio component would require this to be part of the spoken copy.
  • All media outlets presenting advertising content must keep a record of every ad generated including the content, the company that purchased or requested the ad space, the country of origin for the party making the request, and the method of funding for the ad, including any barter or trade efforts and what was exchanged in these instances.
  • These regulations would apply to every type of advertising found in the United States and any future type of advertising: television, radio, billboards, newspaper, and any ad found on the Internet. There would be no exemptions. Any content designed to promote anything would fall under these regulations.
  • Any digital advertising intended for a U.S. audience, even if generated on servers on foreign soil, must adhere to these regulations.

These efforts would help curb this trend of online content providers trying to embed ads in their social media streams like just another post, much like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook do today. Any advertisement being disguised as a news source would be immediately identified.

I understand that much of what we see on the Internet is fueled by ad revenue. I’m not trying to impede these efforts, instead I’m trying to make sure there’s a very clear delineation between content and advertising.