Do you remember way back last week when the White House cancelled a bunch of Obamacare advertisements? Seemed like a sensible choice to me because advertising costs money and there’s not much point in funding a bunch of television spots encouraging people to sign up for a program that’s about to go away. It’s not only a waste of tax dollars, but it’s rather disingenuous and unfair to the consumers who actually take that advice.

Unfortunately for them, at least some of those digital ad buys aren’t going away despite the orders from the White House. A liberal advertising firm is now running some of the digital ad campaign pieces themselves. (Government Executive)

With just a day left for consumers to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, a left-leaning digital advertising firm has stepped in to offset the Trump administration’s decision during its first week to cancel some Health and Human Services department ads encouraging potential enrollees to learn their options on Healthcare.gov.

DSPolitical, which calls itself the world’s leading voter targeted digital/online ad network, announced on Monday that it is now running the canceled digital ads while embarking on a GoFundMe campaign to pay for it…

The rescue effort from DSPolitical, which was also working with HHS, drew backing from two major HHS officials from the Obama administration: Andy Slavitt, CMS administrator, and Josh Peck, chief marketing officer for Healthcare.gov.

This is going to require a bit more digging before I can come to grips with the question of… can they do that? I’m not talking about the idea of buying advertising time for something you believe in. Obviously anyone (including you) could put up some money and buy advertising time to support Obamacare, Medicare, the Second Amendment or anything else you like. If DSPolitical wants to create or commission some Obamacare ads and run them this really isn’t much of a story beyond a group of liberals poking a thumb in the new President’s eye. But digging into the story, it at least appears that these are government purchased pieces of content which were scheduled to go and will now be put back on the digital playlist.

This is different from the case out in Oregon where the Department of Consumer and Business Services is re-upping advertising buys to attract enrollees to their network. That’s a state specific function and they own the advertising copy. How they spend their money on the advertising budget is between the department and the voters.

But in the case of DSPolitical, can you run somebody else’s advertising copy without their permission? It’s one of those questions which at least sounds like it wouldn’t come up very often. Companies love to have their advertisements available on YouTube and will gleefully endorse the idea of people spreading them around on social media. It’s just one more way to get their promotional content out there. Granted, if you start chopping up the ads and putting them out in a way which demeans or discredits the owner they’ll be coming after you, but if you leave the ads as they were when approved, the owners tend not to complain if you show them to more people on your dime.

This is a sort of unique situation. Somehow I doubt the White House will go after the firm just for running ads that people have already seen anyway. (Or if they did, it would come off as being incredibly petty.) But at the moment I’m having a hard time finding a case where someone did something like this in the commercial sphere and got in trouble for it.