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ANA Calls on FTC to Reject Surveillance Ad Ban Highlighting the Economic Benefits of Data Driven Advertising in Comments

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JANUARY 26, 2022 – Today, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), representing more than 20,000 brands that collectively spend $400 billion in marketing and advertising each year, submitted comments urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to deny a petition to ban or limit “surveillance advertising.”

In its submission, ANA highlighted the significant benefits of data-driven advertising for businesses and consumers, which includes enabling virtually free access to massive amounts of information online. The Association said the proposed ban would infringe upon the longstanding First Amendment protection of advertising as commercial free speech, which allows businesses to communicate with consumers without undue governmental hindrance.

The Association said the petitioner does not specify what it has dubbed “surveillance advertising” and that a ban by the FTC would stifle Internet-based advertising, a major economic driver.  ANA said a ban or sweeping limits on Internet-based advertising would threaten trillions of dollars in economic activity. In 2020, the Internet economy contributed $2.45 trillion to the U.S.’s $21.18 trillion GDP.

Advertisers, ANA said, would not be able to use any personal data to target messaging. A “ban would result in a swift decrease in the availability of accessible information for consumers, cripple the economy, and disproportionately impact small and mid-size businesses,” ANA said.

“Consumers and businesses derive significant benefits from data-driven advertising,” said ANA Executive Vice President and Head of Government Relations Christopher Oswald. “This petition is misleading and baseless. The FTC already possesses effective enforcement mechanisms to deter any anti-competitive conduct.”

“Marketplace competition is clearly enhanced by consumers receiving the relevant, timely, truthful information they get from advertisements,” ANA said.  

Data-driven advertising has long been used to communicate with consumers through numerous methods including targeted billboard and print ads, and is not inherently anti-competitive, ANA said. It pointed to several indicators of the robust competition that exists in the ad industry, including the number and diversity of advertisers, use of Internet-based advertising to ease market entry for many start-up companies, and the many means available to consumers to exercise control over their data.  

ANA’s comments to the FTC are available here.



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