A look at how companies try to reach potential customers.

Be Prepared to Defend Political Advertising

[Commentary] With elections looming in 2018 that look to generate lots of political advertising, broadcasters should be well versed in defending the current state of political fundraising and spending, particularly the newly won right of corporations and other associations to spend unlimited amounts in support of their causes and candidates.

Ad Industry Watchdog Refers Verizon To FCC And FTC Over Broadband Ads

An ad industry watchdog says it will refer Verizon to the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission for refusing to participate in an investigation of ads touting broadband service. The move by the National Advertising Division, a self-regulatory unit administered by the Better Business Bureau, stemmed from cable company Comcast's challenge to Verizon's ad boasts, including claims that "Only FiOS gives you equal upload and download speeds" and that FiOS is the "fastest" and "most reliable" Internet service. Comcast argued to the NAD that Comcast speeds were "faster and more reliable" than Verizon's, according to tests by the FCC. Comcast also said that its top-tier service offers 2 Gbps in both directions, which would contradict Verizon's claim of being the only service to offer equally fast upstream and downstream speeds.

Consumer Groups Take Aim at Navient for Phone Harassment

A half-dozen consumer groups have asked the federal government to take action against Navient, a student loan servicer, and have accused the company of “harassing and abusing” borrowers with repeated automated telephone calls, even after being asked to stop. In a request filed on June 12 with the Federal Communications Commission, the National Consumer Law Center and other groups accused Navient of calling borrowers’ cellphones multiple times a day, and often many times a week, totaling hundreds or in some cases thousands of calls over a period of months or years.

The groups asked the FCC to take enforcement action against Navient for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by making repeated “robocalls” to student loan borrowers and other consumers. The letter asks the agency to force Navient “to stop making robocalls to consumers from whom it does not have consent to call, or consumers whose consent has been revoked.”

Democratic Sens Press FCC Not To Allow Straight-to-Voicemail Telemarketing

Democratic Sens are calling on Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai not to allow telemarketers to leave “ringless voicemails” on potential customers' phones. Sens Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and others penned a letter to Chairman Pai, asking that he not allow companies to leave messages soliciting business on consumer’s phones that go straight to their voicemail. The FCC is currently considering a petition from firms that would like the commission to revise its position on such calls, which are currently barred under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991.

“Exempting ringless voicemails from the TCPA’s autodialer protections would allow callers to overwhelm consumers with ringless voice messages without first receiving express consumer consent,” wrote the senators. “Whether by robocall, by robotext, or by ringless voicemail, consumers should have meaningful control over who can and cannot contact their mobile device.”

Survey: Consumers Uncomfortable With Smart TV Data Collection

Consumers aren’t comfortable with their data being collected by smart TVs, according to a survey conducted by Videa, Cox Media’s automated ad platform. The survey found that 48 percent of consumers said they were somewhat, mostly or completely uncomfortable with advertisers collecting Smart TV data. Only 39 percent said they are somewhat, mostly or completely comfortable with their data being collected by advertisers. The answer most given, at 21 percent of respondents, was that they were completely uncomfortable with the data collection.

In Political Media First, President Trump Releases Comey Attack Ad

In what appears to be a political media first, a Super Pac controlled by President Donald Trump has released an ad attacking the character of a witness in advance of a highly anticipated Senate hearing. The ad, entitled “Showboat,” was released June 6 by President Trump’s Great America Alliance and attacks the character of former FBI Director James Comey, who is scheduled to speak publicly June 8 during a Senate hearing. The spot, which will air on national TV outlets during the hearing, reportedly has a $400,000 media budget. Citing alt right news reports such as Breitbart News, American Spectator and AlternNet, the campaign attacks Comey as putting “politics over protecting America” and concludes with the tagline: “Just another DC insider in it for himself.”

It would be a mistake for Congress to prohibit targeted advertising online

[Commentary] On its face, the BROWSER Act seems like pro-consumer privacy legislation. But it’s actually an awful deal for Americans who’ve come to depend on free online content and services.

The BROWSER Act would disallow interest-based ads by default. In doing so, the act would erase $340 billion in advertising revenue from American websites over the next five years. That’s because the Act requires users to opt-in to interest-based advertising and studies have shown that such an opt-in regime reduces online ads’ effectiveness by 65 percent. Some might initially celebrate this change. But celebration will change to mourning when they realize the price we’ll be paying when websites lose all this ad revenue.

[Carl Szabo is senior policy counsel for NetChoice, a trade association of eCommerce businesses including AOL, Facebook, and 21st Century Fox.]

No, Your Phone Didn’t Ring. So Why Voice Mail From a Telemarketer?

It is called ringless voice mail, the latest attempt by telemarketers and debt collectors to reach the masses. The calls are quietly deposited through a back door, directly into a voice mail box — to the surprise and (presumably) irritation of the recipient, who cannot do anything to block them. Regulators are considering whether to ban these messages.

They have been hearing from ringless voice mail providers and pro-business groups, which argue that these messages should not qualify as calls and, therefore, should be exempt from consumer protection laws that ban similar types of telephone marketing. But consumer advocates, technology experts, people who have been inundated with these calls and the lawyers representing them say such an exemption would open the floodgates. Consumers’ voice mail boxes would be clogged with automated messages, they say, making it challenging to unearth important calls, whether they are from an elderly mother’s nursing home or a child’s school.

Google prepares publishers for the release of Chrome ad-blocking

News that Google intends to install an ad-blocker in its Chrome browser shocked the tech and publishing world in April. Now, details of how the program will work are starting to become clear. The Google ad-blocker will block all advertising on sites that have a certain number of "unacceptable ads." That includes ads that have pop-ups, auto-playing video, and "prestitial" count-down ads that delay the display of content. Google, which refers to the ad-blocker as an ad "filter," is using a list of unacceptable ad types provided by the Coalition for Better Ads, an advertising industry trade group. Google has already discussed its plans with publishers, who will get at least six months to prepare for the change coming sometime in 2018. Publishers will get a tool called "Ad Experience Reports," which "will alert them to offending ads on their sites and explain how to fix the issues."

Time Warner’s CEO says its $85 billion sale to AT&T is all about battling Google and Facebook

Data, data, data. Who’s got it? Tech giants like Google and Facebook, who provide a service directly to their users, and then use that data for ad targeting. It’s why they are dominating online advertising today. Who doesn’t? A traditional media giant like Time Warner, which owns brands like HBO and CNN, but which doesn’t have a direct connection with viewers because it sells its channels through a cable provider. That, in essence, is why Time Warner has agreed to sell itself to AT&T — a company that has a direct link with consumers — Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said.