The Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") will host a one-day workshop on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 to look at the issue of "sponsored content" or "native advertising," terms which refer to advertising that is blended into news, entertainment, and other content. According to the FTC, the workshop will "bring together publishing and advertising industry representatives, consumer advocates, academics, and self-regulatory organizations to explore: the ways in which sponsored content is presented to consumers online and in mobile apps; consumers' recognition and understanding of it; the contexts in which it should be identifiable as advertising; and effective ways of differentiating it from editorial content."… Continue Reading
Driven by the evolution of technology and social media, brand advertisers are increasingly turning to "native advertising" -- a form of paid media in which promoted content is woven into the actual visual design, or fabric, of a website, magazine, or newspaper. The theory is that by providing ads in the context of a user's experience, and designing content that blends in with the media in which it is placed, the promoted content is less intrusive, and more likely to capture the attention of consumers.
Of course, because native advertising necessarily blurs traditional lines of editorial and advertising content, regulators have begun to more closely scrutinize the practice, and have expressed concerns about the potential for consumer deception. Earlier this year, for example, the National Advertising Division ("NAD") examined a campaign from Qualcomm, in which it ran banner ads for its Snapdragon processor adjacent to a series of articles that it had sponsored on the Mashable website. For the duration of the campaign, the banner ads included a tag indicating that Qualcomm had sponsored the articles. Once the campaign concluded, however, the tags were removed (even though the articles remained live on Mashable).… Continue Reading
After recent concerns over misleading native advertising efforts in online editorial content, the FTC puts a spotlight on search engines.
On Tuesday, June 25, the FTC sent out more than two dozen letters to various search engine companies, pushing them to clearly distinguish between paid advertising content and natural Internet search results. After noticing a decline in compliance with its search engine advertising disclosure letter issued back in 2002, the FTC sent out these letters as part of its overall effort to improve digital advertising disclosures.
In the letters, the agency advised search engine companies to improve the clarity and prominence of advertising disclosures by increasing visual cues (such as more prominent shading and borders) and text labels (such as using more prominent fonts and placements of advertising disclosures) for paid search content. The FTC also noted that its guidance applies to other platforms as well, such as social media platforms that include paid advertising in user feeds. The FTC based its growing concern off various studies - most notably, a 2005 Pew Research Center survey that found 62 percent of searchers were not even aware of the distinction between paid and non-paid results.
With the evolution of social media and rapidly changing platforms for communication, differentiating natural content from paid-for advertising can be difficult for a consumer. However, the letter indicated that regardless of the form a search takes (or the platform used), paid results should be clearly distinguishable. The FTC letters were sent to both general all-purpose search engines and to smaller, more specialized search engines that are heavily trafficked.
Without clear advertising disclosures to Internet audiences, search engines could potentially be liable for unfair or deceptive practices in violation of the FTC Act. Therefore, it is integral to strike a balance between innovative advertising methods and FTC compliance.… Continue Reading