Your Industry Could Be on Receiving End of 'Change'

An Ad Age Editorial

Published on .

We're not going very far out on a limb by saying that the election of Barack Obama as president of the U.S. last week was greeted with enthusiasm by the advertising, marketing and media industries. But as with all things political, his election is a mixed blessing.

First, the good news: Barack Obama proved the value of smart marketing. (We'll leave it to others to discuss the wider implications.) Indeed, his campaign team probably could churn out a few decent textbooks on branding, word-of-mouth, public relations and the use of social networking. It wasn't for nothing that he was voted Advertising Age's Marketer of the Year.

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The bad news? President Obama will be presiding over a House and Senate with strong Democratic majorities. With something approaching a mandate, Congress may get very active in the ad sector. Indeed, according to Dick O'Brien, exec VP of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the group was told to expect some pain by none other than Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., the man most likely to be Mr. Obama's chief of staff. The obvious target will be direct-to-consumer drug advertising. DTC could see both increased limits and increased regulation. Congressional Democrats could lead stronger pushes for a moratorium on advertising for new drugs. The biggest worry of ad groups is that DTC's unpopularity would foster attempts to limit its deductibility as a business expense, setting a precedent for other unpopular ad categories.

A Democratic Congress -- if it's not too busy with health care and other big issues -- might lead to an expansion of the Federal Trade Commission's authority. And Congress may also turn its eyes on the Federal Communications Commission and rules about media ownership. That could prove to be bad news for big players in the media industry. On the other hand, it may make life a little easier for smaller players in the field.

There's been talk, too, by some Democratic congressmen, about reviving the so-called fairness doctrine, which could lay waste to talk radio as it exists today.

That said, Mr. Obama himself is opposed to the fairness doctrine -- a reminder that the president-elect won't necessarily be a rubber stamp for Congress.

For now, Mr. Obama's supporters should relish the victory. But don't forget that the change he promised may apply to your industry.
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