In today's digital world, the line between editorial content and sponsored advertisements continues to blur, with some brands, agencies and publishers creating native ads that mimic the style and format of media they appear in.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), charged with consumer protection, has long had rules in place to ensure businesses adhere to truth-in-advertising standards.
Now however, with its new Enforcement Policy Statement and Native Advertising Guideline for Businesses (Guidelines), this oversight body has given those established guidelines an updated 21st-century application.
The Federal Trade Commission's primary goal in regards to native advertising is preventing deception and promoting truth and transparency.
Their newly released material builds upon existing Guidelines for Endorsement and Marketing Claims established by them and provides clear standards businesses must abide by when engaging in native advertising campaigns.
In addition to outlining key principles in the Guidelines, both the Enforcement Policy Statement and Guides provide detailed disclosure requirements for both marketers and consumers who view native ads.
The goal is for these disclosures to assist consumers in distinguishing promotional content or paid endorsements from editorially independent news, feature articles, product reviews, entertainment or any other regular content found on publisher sites or social media platforms.
Additionally they also provide guidance as to when and where these disclosures should take place.
Example: When native advertisements link to other pieces of branded content, their disclosure should be clearly and conspicuously displayed both within the sponsored content itself as well as the linked article or video.
Furthermore, any series-wide disclosure should be clearly and prominently identified at each entry in that series.
Finally, the FTC's new Guidelines stipulate that any disclosure that meets its criteria must not be "materially smaller or less visible than other non-proprietary disclosures on the page".
This serves as a powerful reminder that small differences in labeling native ads could make them misleading to consumers.