At one time the mixing of editorial and advertising content was an unthinkable breach of journalistic ethics. Now it’s the hottest online advertising trend: Native Ads.
Native Ads don’t automatically violate US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules against “deceptive advertising” provided they’re identified as sponsored content. However the question is whether publisher websites are sufficiently calling out Native Ads as advertising.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the FTC is hosting a “workshop” on advertorial content this week called “Blurred Lines: Advertising or Content?” to discuss whether publishers and advertisers are sufficiently identifying Native Ads a sponsored to prevent consumer confusion.
The current FTC rules for digital advertising disclosures require ads to be identified in a “clear and conspicuous” way.
While the WSJ says this workshop doesn’t coincide with the opening of a formal investigation, it’s the start of a process that will undoubtedly result in more specific rules about acceptable ways to identify Native Ads.
Despite the rhetoric from publishers, brands and agencies that Native Ads allow marketers to “tell stories” the primary appeal of Native Ads is that they don’t appear to be advertising and are thus less easily avoided by consumers. Fully three-quarters of US publishers now offer some form of Native Ads, with only a tiny minority not considering implementing them.
Postscript: In case you were wondering, the image is of a “Trojan Horse” (provided by Shutterstock).