Going ‘native:’ Untangling deceptive web ads
January 09, 2014
Sara E. Yood is assistant general counsel with the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, which provides general educational resources and jeweler-specific advice. The advice is strictly the opinion of the JVC.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is focusing on an emerging area of advertising: paid content that looks almost indistinguishable from editorial content, known as “native advertising.” While this form of advertising isn’t new (think advertorials and infomercials), it seeks to unfairly capitalize on the reputations of platform on which it is published to directly get the content to their readership.
It is important to be aware that this advertising, while designed to look like editorial content, still must not be misleading to consumers. FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez recently remarked at a December 4, 2013 FTC workshop that “marketers have ... moved past the banner ad into advertising that is more seamlessly, and inconspicuously, integrated into digital content. While native advertising may certainly bring some benefits to consumers, it has to be done lawfully. By presenting ads that resemble editorial content, an advertiser risks implying, deceptively, that the information comes from a non-biased source.”
During this FTC workshop, various panelists discussed content-style advertising, and how it should be presented in order to ensure that consumers understand that they are reading an ad. Labeling posts with a tag such as “sponsored” or “advertisement” is a must, and visually distinguishing them from editorial content is important to make sure that a consumer casually scrolling through a website would understand that these posts are not unbiased. Consumers are savvy, so it is important to be transparent. This advertising should not be about tricking the consumer, but clearly providing the source of the content of the advertising.
It is also important to pay attention to these distinctions on social media. When using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or other social media platforms, always label advertisements or sponsored posts. Be clear and conspicuous that it is not editorial content. For example, on Twitter, you might include “Ad:” or “Spon:” at the beginning of the tweet, or the hashtags “#ad” or “#sponsored” at the end of the tweet.
Finally, it is important to remember that the FTC continues to monitor this area of advertising. An FTC inquiry would look at the advertisement’s overall net impression to determine whether it has misled a consumer.
Publishers are aware of the FTC’s focus on this area, and they should be willing to work with you to make sure your advertising content and the manner in which it is presented is both clear and effective.
The JVC continues to monitor the FTC’s focus on advertising disclosures and will provide alerts for any new rule changes. Please contact Sara Yood at 212-997-2002 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.