Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Onerous Regs For Web Ads Ruled Unconstitutional

Source: Media Post Blog
by Wendy Davis

"Internet advertising differs significantly from advertising in traditional media." That's according to U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman in Louisiana, who Monday invalidated portions of new state restrictions on attorney advertising.

The new rules would have required lawyers to submit all ads, including pay-per-click search ads, to a committee for advance review at a cost of $175 per ad. If blog posts were deemed ads, attorneys could have had to pay for vetting each time they made a new post.

The law firm that challenged the new regulation, the Wolfe Group, said that it spent $160.63 on pay-per-click ads with Google in the second quarter. During that time, the firm ran 12 variations of its ad. The cost to the firm of vetting those ads could have been as high as $2,100.

Feldman found that such limits on Web advertising were unconstitutional. In his 39-page opinion, he also criticized the authorities for crafting an ad policy that didn't account for the difference between push and pull mediums. "The Internet presents unique issues related to advertising, which the state simply failed to consider in formulating this rule," he wrote.

This decision makes a lot of sense. Like other types of advertising, pay-per-click ads can mislead consumers. But that's no reason to require marketers to present their ad copy for pre-publication review -- a process that would certainly discourage many legitimate companies from using the Web to communicate with consumers.

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