The FTC Takes a Big Step Into the Native Advertising Controversy

The FTC Takes on Native AdvertisingTwo years ago, we first discussed the idea of native advertising, a form of promotion that blends an advertiser?s message with a website?s content. At that time, we noted how U.S. regulators, specifically the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), were raising a cautionary flag regarding this evolving method of Internet advertising. Their concern rest with whether certain forms of so-called sponsored-content were easily identified as being messages provided by an advertiser as opposed to viewed as being part of material created by a website. For example, what appears to be an article on exercise appearing on a newspaper website may actually be written by an active sportswear company, though the layout of the articles may give it the appearance of being written by the newspaper.

A few months after our first posting on native advertising, we saw the FTC?s level of concern rise much higher. In particular, the FTC was even more vocal about the need for advertisers to be clearly identified. The fact the FTC was concerned sent signals to Internet marketers that unless native advertising was more transparent, they would act. Apparently the FTC has seen enough, and they have now acted.

According to this New York Times story, the FTC has issued guidelines for how native advertising can be done. As expected, their most notable suggestion tells websites to identify clearly advertisers, especially of sponsored-content. In fact, to drive home their point regarding the blending advertising and content, the FTC released Native Advertising: A Guide for Business, which says what information needs to be disclosed and where in the content it needs to be placed.

As expected, websites and advertisers are not happy. They believe native ads are effective and benefit visitors to their site. And, as we noted a few months ago, websites also see native advertising as a promotional method to combat ad-blocking software. Certainly, we have not heard the last of this issue as it promises to be headline news again in 2016.

Image by Stilgherrian