Advertising generates twenty percent of all the jobs in Washington, D.C., nearly 15 percent of all the jobs in Maryland, and more than 14 percent in Virginia. That was the message members of the American Advertising Federation from across the country took to their congressional representatives this Spring. As the new administration eyes tax cuts and tax policy generally, the message couldn’t have been more timely.
Advertising industry professionals call their annual trek “Advertising Day on the Hill,” but the event consisted of equal parts networking, insights about the current advertising marketplace and congressional visits. In advance of their Hill visits, non-locals heard speakers that included marketing and advertising leaders from the agency and client side, representatives from Congress and the FTC,. Experts shared important information with members of national AAF and Ad 2 chapters, and presented attendees with the opportunity to learn about and advocate for the advertising industry.
The evening before Ad Day on the Hill included a networking dinner. During this dinner, representatives of AAF and Ad 2 chapters across the US listened as Dr. Jeffrey Herbst, CEO of the Newseum, discussed the state of the First Amendment and its relevance to advertising. He explored topics such as fake news, social media, and the changing journalism landscape. Suggesting that corporations could be media sources on the same level as journalistic institutions, he pushed for people to think critically about every information source they encounter and consider how motivations such as politics and marketing can influence the information that drives decision making.
The following morning, congressional representatives, representatives from government agencies, and professionals from the advertising industry covered subjects as wide ranging as tax reform and the growth of America’s multicultural population.
Several congressional representatives urged ad pros to oppose tax reform that jeopardizes the advertising industry. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) said that working with Rep.Kevin Yoder (R-KS) helped pass legislation that allows businesses to deduct advertising as a business expense. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) addressed economic growth and how tax reform would affect consumers who vote for tax reform that will impact the advertising industry. Such background armed AAF and Ad 2 members in their outreach to with congressional staffers later in the day, giving them talking points to share on behalf of the advertising industry.
Additional industry speakers addressed about how tax reform could hurt the industry and the jobs it supports. Clark Rector, Government Relations Chair of the AAF, spoke about Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp’s (R-MI) tax reform proposal of 2014 in contrast to tax reform measures currently being proposed. While the 2014 proposal supported more jobs, current iterations could harm the advertising industry and the jobs it supports, Rector said. Giving advertising credit for the jobs it creates and its impact on the economy as a whole is essential to any acceptable tax plan. In D.C. alone, every $1 million spent on advertising supports 128 jobs throughout a variety of industries.
Jim Davidson, shareholder of Polsinelli, referenced a slew of past tax reform proposals that would have impacted the advertising industry negatively if allowed to proceed unopposed. Such proposals included forcing businesses to amortize the advertising costs over 10 years, as well as barring companies from deducting costs of advertising for pharmaceuticals or food products aimed at children. He outlined ways that tax reform could hurt the advertising industry and expressed doubts about reforms passing in the current divisive political climate.
Andrew Orci, the CEO of Orci, shifted the discussion to America’s growth toward a majority of multiculturals. New audiences should generate increased consideration of American diversity in marketing. Michael Signorelli, a partner at Venable LLP in D.C., addressed government and industry regulation. FTC regulations on advertising could be averted by efforts at self-regulation by the Digital Advertising Alliance, he advised.
Representatives of government agencies also provided insights into their work and how the legislation discussed during Ad Day on the Hill would affect them. Mary Engle, Associate Dir. of the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practice, spoke about her agency’s work in regulating advertisers and investigating false claims. She provided specific examples of misleading ads and/or false claims in advertising, such as the high-profile case against Prevagin memory supplements and instances of influencer marketing where the sponsored nature of the content appeared unclear. Ultimately, her examples were a good reminder to our industry to clarify sponsored content: “When in doubt, spell it out,” she advised.
After the morning briefing, members of AAF and Ad2DC local and national organizations met with the staff of congressional representatives. Presenting them with documents summarizing the value of the advertising industry to the economy and the jobs it provides, AAF and Ad 2 members spoke fervently about advertising’s contribution to local and national prosperity. Then, before calling it a day and heading home, AAF and Ad 2 members gathered to network and share their experiences over drinks.
At Ad Day on the Hill, Ad 2 DC’s government relations chair and president witnessed the devotion and passion of the organizations’ membership first hand. We made strong connections with other advertising professionals and political figures, and learned a great deal about the relationship between government and advertising.
Remember that members of AAF DC or Ad 2 DC are able to make their voices heard and to speak on behalf of the advertising industry as well. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to obtain documents and information that you can share with your own representatives to protect the advertising industry.
If you attended Ad Day on The Hill, we’d also love your feedback! Please take this brief survey about your experiences to help improve Ad Day on the Hill in the future.