Prior to the last federal election, Bill C-76 was amended making it mandatory for advertisers to register any campaign-related issue message in addition to the standard political ads we are used to seeing. Issue ads are those that take a position on a campaign issue but do not directly identify or mention candidates or parties. Most Canadian publishers accept political advertising through direct channels. But these amendments posed a new challenge for the industry and created significant barriers to programmatic buying and selling of media during the election period.
To help enable our industry to identify issues in real-time and react accordingly, IAB Canada developed a database solution in partnership with Canadian Press that allowed subscribers to access all current “Issues” during the 2019 Election period. The database included corresponding keywords as well as domains that were associated with the respective issues.
Post-election, government held a consultation with industry where they asked for reactions to the amendments as well as suggested reform. IAB Canada participated in the submission process urging the removal of the registry requirement. However, due to the onset of the pandemic and a push toward a fall election, we were told in a discussion this week with Elections Canada that although our requests were reasonable and under careful consideration, these requirements will remain in place for at least one more casting of votes.
In response, IAB Canada plans to extend the database offering once again for use during the upcoming federal election. if you are interested in subscribing to the database please contact us at email@example.com.
Meanwhile, Ontario Premier Doug Ford flexed his political muscle and was able to amend the Ontario Election Act to extend the period of regulationof third-party advertising. This amendment imposed a new spending limit of $637,200 on each group over a year-long period leading up to the election. A $600,000 spending limit was in effect for just six months before the 2018 campaign. Not only does this obligation reduce the capacity to engage in political advertising, it also places the onus of keeping track of ad spend limits on the publishers. They would be in non-compliance if they were to let an advertiser run ads in excess of the set-out budgets. As it currently stands, advertiser spending amounts are available via a static government managed database that is updated every 48 hours. This lack of real-time access to spending limit data puts publishers in serious risk of breaking the law.
We are in the process of reaching out to Ontario Elections officials to assess and determine if there are any existing technical means available to help ease compliance efforts. If not, we will roll up our collective sleeves and do what we can to help our industry work through this challenge. In the coming weeks, we will be releasing an overview of the new provincial requirements and will be sharing them with our community.
If you would like to become a part of the IAB Canada Elections working group, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org