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AAF Louisville | Day on the Hill Report

Advertising Day on the Hill | April 17

Did you know?
Advertising expenditures account for $17.5 billion in economic output for the city of Louisville. That’s 21.6% of all economic output in Kentucky’s 3rd District.

Did you know?
Advertising driven sales help support 16.7% of all the jobs in Louisville. That’s 70,342 jobs.

Insights into the ad industry

I learned this and a whole lot more at the AAF Advocacy & Action Day on the Hill, held in Washington, DC on April 16 & 17. It was a day and a half of learning about the advertising industry and how congressional legislation can and does affect us. At the end of the day on April 17, the 40 or so people who attended met with our representatives on the Hill to help them understand our value to the economy and the issues that affect our industry that are either on the radar, or may some day be.

April 16

The conference started with a happy hour sponsored by the DC Ad Club. The mood was friendly, and I was able to immediately connect with folks from all over the country.

Dinner View of Capitol Hill

Dinner View of Capitol Hill

At 7:00, we proceeded from the Liason Hotel to the offices of McDermott Will & Emery, which gave a stunning view of Capitol Hill and the Mall. The dinner talk was led by Katy Bachman, a DC correspondent for Adweek. Her discussion centered around policy issues for the ad industry, a few of which are:

Privacy and Big Data
Internet media is spending tons of money to influence legislation. We’ve got companies with large bank accounts like Google on our side. However, data and privacy are (rightly) important issues for society as a whole. Therefore, there are advocacy groups that have privacy and big data issues on their radar, and they don’t see the advertising industry as the good guys. Legislators are skeptical of self-regulation. The FTC in particular (as we learn on day 2) does not trust us. If you are an agency, think of yourself as a data broker, and keep your data safe and abide by clear and concise policies. Privacy protection is mission critical for agencies.

Katy Bachman of Adweek

Katy Bachman of Adweek

Food Marketing
Deceptive advertising cuts through party lines. It is a shameful use of the ad industry, and keeps us on the radar of public health advocacy groups. Keep your ethics forward, and the sleazy ads out!

The Internet
Because the above issues are so public, social channels will be used as a grassroots platform against the interests of the ad industry if we do not regulate ourselves, and probably will even if we do. However, the internet can be on our side in exactly the same way. The internet community was able to shut down the SOPA legislation in just two days.

Lincoln Memorial at night

Lincoln Memorial at night

The night ended with about 10 of us walking from the Lincoln Memorial back to our hotel. The weather was lovely and smelled of cherry blossoms all the way back.

April 17: Day on the Hill

The next day was much more intense, with talks from 9:00am-1:30pm, then the rest of the afternoon spent in the Capitol building, meeting with our representatives.

Some nuggets of goodness from the day:

Jim Davidson, a partner with Polsinelli Shughart PC, discussed tax issues that were important to the industry, namely that we should be vigilant at all times about reforms in tax policy and the tax code. Historically, ad spends have been considered a cost of doing business, and therefore are a deduction. Every now and then a loose cannon in state or federal government will try to squeeze more money into their districts’ coffers. This comes up semi-regularly, and is an issue that requires our vigilance as an industry. For more information, reference my coffee stained talking points/notes.

Did you know?
Our industry is vulnerable because some advertising offends some people all of the time.

Stu Ingis, a partner with Venable, gave us a briefing on privacy issues, and the successes of the Digital Advertising Alliance. The DAA has successfully implemented the Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising, which gives consumers a better understanding of and greater control over ads that are customized based on their online behavior (also called “interest-based” advertising). More privacy issues in my coffee stained notes.

What came soon after was a shock, when Edith Ramirez, newly appointed Chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, came in with a scripted 20 minute speech that insisted that “Do Not Track” privacy regulation be taken even further. Katy Bachman wrote a great piece on her talk: http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/ftc-chair-stuns-advertisers-148644, and Stu Ingis spent about an hour afterward reacting/responding.

At lunchtime, we had Steve McMahon and Bruce Haynes from Purple Strategies give us a “lay of the land” in terms of congress and the current political landscape, discussing many issues relevant to our industry, but mostly giving us insights into why Congress is so gridlocked these days. Depressing, to say the least.

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill

The rest of the day, we spent in the halls of Congress, and I had the pleasure to meet with the staff of both John Yarmuth and Mitch McConnell. All the staff members were polite and listend attentively while we discussed the various interests of the AAF. They were already well versed in some of the issues we were discussing, and I think after all the discussion both offices understood the value we play in our communities and the national economy.

AAF National has plans to make this at least a yearly event. I think it’s a great idea, and I think it’s important to be able to mobilize the advertising community should important changes in tax code or online privacy legislation be brought to the table.


Below are some pictures from the trip. A trip to the Smithsonian Museums is always a priority on a trip to our nation’s capital!


Born and raised in
Louisville, Kentucky.


223 S. Clay St

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