Third Party Advertising
What is a Third-Party Advertiser?
Third-party advertisers (TPAs) are any individuals, corporations, trade unions or similar organizations that raise and/or spend funds on election advertising to promote or oppose political participants, or to take a position on an issue with which a political participant is associated. Essentially, this includes any individuals or organizations that sponsor election advertising separately from political candidates.
Registration as a Third Party
A Third-Party Advertiser must register with Elections NWT when it incurs or plans to incur advertising expenses* of $500 or more.
*Note: An advertising expense is any cost incurred by your third party to create or produce an advertising message; to acquire the means to transmit an advertising message to the public; to canvass for the benefit of a candidate; or to organize an event to promote or oppose a candidate.
A TPA must submit an Application for Registration of a Third-Party Advertiser to the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer (OCEO) to become a Registered Third-Party Advertiser. If your third party is a group or governing body, you must include a resolution passed by the governing body authorizing that party to incur advertising expenses.
The following bodies are not eligible to be registered third parties:
- A prohibited corporation;
- A person not ordinarily resident in the NWT;
- An employee organization that is not an NWT employee organization;
- A group where any member of the group is ineligible under the aforementioned.
The Chief Electoral Officer will review the application and inform the third party if they can be officially identified as a registered third-party advertiser or not.
What is Election Advertising?
Election Advertising is the transmission to the public by any means during an election advertising period* of an advertising message that promotes or opposes the election of a candidate, including advertising messages that take a position on an issue with which a candidate is associated (this is known as “issue advertising” – see below).
*The election advertising period is defined as the period beginning three months before the issue of the writ of election and ending on polling day.
Election advertising also includes canvassing, and organizing events in which a significant purpose of the event is the promotion of or opposition to a registered candidate.
Election advertising does not include:
- Transmission to the public of an editorial, a debate, a speech, an interview, a column, a letter, a commentary, or news;
- Distribution of a book, or promotion of the sale of a book, for no less than its commercial value (if said book was to be made available to the public regardless of whether there was to be an election);
- A corporation or a group transmitting a document, or communicating directly, to its members, employees or shareholders;
- Transmission of the political views of a person, corporation, or group, on a non-commercial basis on the internet (including social media pages);
- Phoning electors for the sole purpose of encouraging them to vote;
- Advertising by the Government of the Northwest Territories in any form.
What is Issue Advertising?
Issue Advertising, sometimes referred to as Issue Advocacy, is advertising, using any of the usual channels, that seeks to change people’s opinion or behaviour related to a social or political issue, rather than classic advertising’s focus on selling or promoting a product or service. Classic examples of issue advertising include anti-smoking and anti-littering campaigns. Political issue advertising occurs when issues are heavily identified with one political party as opposed to another, such as highly polarized issues like gun control in the United States of America.
In making a determination whether an issue advertising message is closely associated enough with a candidate that it is third-party advertising, the CEO considers the extent to which the advertising:
- focuses on a significant issue receiving broad-based public attention within an electoral division or across the territory that rises to a level at which it may determine or strongly influence voters’ choice of a candidate;
- refers to one or more candidates, either directly or indirectly (e.g., the ads show the face, identity, and/or likeness of a candidate);
- praises or criticizes the performance of a candidate;
- outlines a candidate’s stance, views or track record on a specific issue;
- encourages an action, such as signing a petition to oppose or change a government policy, that would tend to encourage the election, re-election or defeat of a particular candidate (e.g., if words or phrases such as Support, Save, Reject, Stop, Say No, or Make Your Voice Heard are used in the ad).
- goes beyond normal corporate advertising – that which is intended to build public goodwill and recruit employees or investors – and extends to endorsing a candidate who is enabling their business.
Note: Ads that only present one side of an issue may still be considered issue advertising, even if they only state facts.
The following examples help to illustrate when communicating a political message on the internet is or is not considered election advertising:
Example 1: You spend $2,000 to hire a web developer to create a website for you to promote a candidate. Since transmitting political views through a non-commercial basis on the internet is not considered third-party advertising, the amount spent on the website development is not considered an advertising expense. This means that you have not spent more than $1,000 on advertising expenses and there is no need to register as a TPA at this time.
Example 2: You spend $500 to boost your post on Facebook in support of a candidate. This would be considered election advertising, and since you have spent $500 on advertising expenses, you must immediately register as a third-party advertiser.
Example 3: Initially, you spent $2,000 to develop a website that promotes a candidate, and you did not need to register as a TPA. A month later, you decide that you want to run TV commercials to promote the candidate, so you spend another $1,000 to further develop your website so that it can accept donations. Now, you must register as a TPA since you plan to raise and spend more than $1,000 on election advertising. Still, the $3,000 you have spent on the website so far is not considered an advertising expense and does not need to be reported.
Example 4: You have spent $3,000 to develop a website that opposes a policy put in place by the current government. Your website also has additional monthly maintenance costs of $75. Neither the initial development cost nor the monthly cost are advertising expenses, so you would not need to register. Two months later, you start accepting donations through your website solely to help cover legal costs associated with challenging the government’s policy. Since the funds you are raising through the website are not being spent on advertising, you still do not need to register as a TPA.
Example 5: You spend $1,000 to promote your video advertisement on YouTube to oppose a candidate’s campaign. This would mean that you have spent more than $500 on advertising expenses, and you must register as a third-party advertiser.
Appointment of Chief Financial Officer
If you are a corporation or group planning on acting as a third-party advertiser, you must appoint a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). (Note that if you are an individual acting as a third-party advertiser, you must ensure that you also fulfil the duties of a CFO.) The CFO has specific duties and responsibilities related to third-party advertising. Primarily, they must authorize all advertising expenses and ensure all advertising contributions are deposited in the account on record with Elections NWT. CFOs must ensure that:
- Proper records are maintained for all contributions and expenses;
- Valued contributions are recorded at fair market value;
- Expenses, including all invoices and major purchases, are paid from the correct advertising account;
- Receipts are issued in the form and manner approved by Elections NWT for every advertising contribution accepted by the third party, and copies of the issued receipts are kept;
- Payments of more than $50 are supported by:
- A document from the supplier that states the particulars of the expense;
- A receipt or other proof of payment acceptable to Elections NWT.
- Financial returns and reports are prepared and filed with Elections NWT by the filing deadline; and
- A reasonable effort is made to inform prospective contributors of the Elections and Plebiscites contribution rules.
Compliance with Advertising Guidelines
Once registered as a third-party advertiser, you must ensure that your election materials all meet the required Advertising Guidelines as stated below:
- Your third party, or a person acting on your behalf, must include the third party’s full name and contact information on your advertisements, in compliance with the Act.
- Contact information must be clearly displayed on all such advertisements, as identification of yourself or your organization as a third-party advertiser, to enable voters to contact you, and to ensure that you are accountable for your advertisements.
- If your advertisement is transmitted through electronic media such as television or the Internet, you must clearly state the third party’s name and contact information at the beginning of the advertisement.
- If your advertisement is transmitted through telephone, whether in the form of a live call or an automated pre-recorded call:
- the telephone number of the third party must be capable of being displayed on the call display of any called parties who subscribe to call display, and must not be blocked from being displayed;
- the name of the third party must be stated at the beginning of the election advertising;
- the election advertising must state whether the third party has authorized the advertising; and
- the telephone number of the third party at which the third party can be contacted must be stated at the end of any election advertising.
- Personal clothing, novelty items (including buttons, badges etc.), and small items of nominal value are excluded from the contact information requirement, but still constitute advertising expenses.
The Chief Electoral Officer may establish further guidelines respecting the requirements mentioned above.
If the election advertising does not comply with the advertising guidelines, the Chief Electoral Officer may remove or discontinue the advertising. In the case of a sign, poster, or other format of election advertising, the CEO and any person acting under the CEO’s instructions is not liable for any trespass or damage resulting from its removal.
Advertising Contribution Regulations
TPAs cannot accept advertising contributions made by a person, corporation, or employee organization unless the contributors have registered with Elections NWT, or if they are spending under $500 in election advertising.
Also, third parties cannot accept advertising contributions from the following bodies:
- persons ordinarily resident outside the NWT;
- a prohibited corporation;
- an employee organization that is not an NWT employee organization;
- a group of which any member of the group is ineligible under the aforementioned restrictions.
If your third party becomes aware that they have accepted a prohibited contribution, then the individual or the CFO of a corporation or group must notify the Chief Electoral Officer within 30 days, outlining the facts and circumstances of the prohibited contribution. They must then return the contribution in accordance with the directions of the CEO.
All advertising contributions of money, real property, goods, and services received by your third party must be reported to Elections NWT. Money paid from your third party’s own funds for election advertising must also be reported as contributions.
Elections NWT publishes contribution reports that include the names of contributors that donated to registered third-party advertisers, and the amounts they donated. Contribution receipts must be issued to all contributors by the filing deadline for the third-party advertiser.
If, at a meeting held on behalf of or in relation to the affairs of a third party, money is given in response to a general solicitation of funds from the persons in attendance at the meeting, individual amounts of $50 or less shall not be considered advertising contributions, but the Chief Financial Officer, if the third party is a corporation or group, or the individual, if the third party is an individual, shall record the aggregate amount received as an advertising contribution.
However, if the funds are raised for purposes unrelated to election advertising, then they are not considered an advertising contribution.
There are no limits on the amount of contributions that may be accepted by a third party.
Advertising expenses are expenses for the use, distribution, or consumption of property, goods, or services for promotion or for opposing others. Examples include advertising in all formats, advertising production, events, polling including surveys and research, honoraria and salaries, office and technology, etc.
An advertising expense is an expense incurred in relation to:
- Producing a political or election advertising message (e.g., costs to create signs/banners/buttons, costs to produce radio/television advertisements)
- Acquiring the means to transmit a political or election advertising message to the public (e.g., costs for billboard rental, costs for radio/television airtime)
- Canvassing for the benefit of a registered political participant
- Organizing events where a significant purpose* is to promote or oppose a registered political participant.
*Note: When determining whether the significant purpose of the event is to promote or oppose a political participant you must consider:
- If the event was planned to coincide with an election;
- If the marketing materials for the event are similar in format or branding to marketing materials used by a registered party or candidate;
- If an election, a registered party, or a candidate is referred to directly or indirectly at the event or in the promotional materials for the event;
- If political messages conveyed at the event are associated with a registered party or candidate.
Advertising expenses and transfers to other third-party advertisers should be paid from your advertising account. If your third party is in a group or corporation, every expense must be authorized by the CFO.
If you transmit an election advertisement during an election advertising period, the expenses incurred for that advertisement are considered an advertising expense.
Advertising Expense Limits
The Elections and Plebiscites Act applies limits to the amount that registered third-party advertisers can spend on election advertising during an election advertising period. Penalties apply for over-spending or attempting to evade spending limits.
- During an election advertising period, a registered third party shall not incur advertising expenses in a total amount across all electoral districts that exceeds $57,000.
- During an election advertising period, a registered third party shall not incur advertising expenses to promote or oppose the election of one or more candidates in a given electoral district in an amount that exceeds $3,000 per candidate.
The promotion and opposition of the election of a candidate in a given electoral district includes: naming the candidate; displaying that candidate’s likeness; or taking a position on an issue with which that candidate is particularly associated.
- During a by-election, a registered third party shall not incur advertising expenses in an amount that exceeds $3,000.
Your third party cannot circumvent or try to circumvent a limit set out in the Act in any manner, including by splitting into two or more third parties. Your third party is prohibited from colluding with candidates or another third party.
Reporting Third-Party Advertising Contributions and Expenses
Within 6 months after election day, the registered third-party advertiser must submit all details of advertising contributions received, and advertising expenses incurred, for all election advertising conducted during that period.
The Finance Officer of Elections NWT will then publish a Third-Party Advertising Report Summary on the Elections NWT website, summarizing all contributions and expenses incurred related to election advertising.
For Advertising Contributions, ensure that the name of the contributor and the amount, whether monetary or non-monetary (if non-monetary, the details of the non-monetary contribution), is recorded. Include all copies of contribution receipts provided to the contributor.
For Advertising Expenses, ensure that the following are all appropriately and accurately recorded:
- the name of candidate who the advertisement was directly or indirectly related to;
- the electoral district that the advertisement was transmitted to;
- the supplier’s name for the expense;
- the date the expense was incurred; and
- the cost of the expense.
This can be provided in an Excel spreadsheet, or any other method of tracking that appropriately and accurately reports the expense.
Additionally, proofs of the advertisement, such as a digital image or video file, sign, newspaper ad, audio recording, or similar, must be provided. These can be in the form of a photo of the advertisement, a link to the digital advertisement, a script, a raw audio file, or any other materials needed to prove the advertisement’s creation and distribution.