Native Advertising – Compliance

Native Advertising has generated buzz among the digital media ecosystem and regulators. Native advertising becomes particularly interesting when it comes to mobile, where it is even harder to differentiate organic and sponsored content.

It is probably one of the reasons that led the FTC to recently put in place a clear guidance with respect to the level, type, and form of disclosures advertisers must provide to consumers. This guide is an additional and more detailed one on top of the FTC previous guides addressing misleading advertising and native in particular. The new rules are designed to prevent consumers from being misled if they fail to understand that a particular piece of content is sponsored.

It is worthy first, to clarify what Native Advertising is, to those who are not quite sure. Native advertising is a form of advertising (usually online) which resembles the design, style, look and feel and/or functionality of the surrounding media or otherwise combining editorial/organic and commercial content.

Here is a short checklist of compliance recommendations to avoid violation of the FTC disclosure requirements:

1) WHEN disclosure is required?

  • The answer should be based on the question: how reasonable consumer would interpret the ad in a specific situation.

  • It must be clear to consumers before they choose to view an ad that the content is commercial.

  • Search results –links and other visual elements (such as webpage snippets, images, or graphics) appearing in non-paid search results must disclose its commercial nature.

  • The FTC identified couple of circumstances where disclosure would not be required:

    • Where the commercial nature of the content is obvious even when natively formatted.

    • Before or after a consumer clicks on an article, even if the article is sponsored by a brand, if the article itself does not feature, depict or promote any of the brand’s products.

2) HOW to make a disclosure?

  • Be Transparent – your native ad/sponsored content must be clearly identified as an ad in a manner that allows consumers to understand that before they click or move on to view the content.

  • Be Clear – choose disclosures that can be easily understood by consumers (determined on a case-by-case basis and depending on: (1) nature of the native content; (2) the manner the content is presented to consumers; and (3) the platforms on which the native content presented).

  • Label and Distinguish – if you combine native advertisement with editorial/organic content, make sure to clearly distinguish the sponsored part. The FTC recommends to add other forms of disclosures in addition to to labeling the content as an “ad” (e.g. frames, boarders, background shading).

  • Enrichment Widgets – label as “more content”, “additional around the web” is not sufficient to disclose the commercial nature of the content.

  • Shared or Republished Content – disclosures should remain when ad content is shared virally or republished. 

  • Articles – disclosures should be near, above or to the left of the article headline.

  • Video Ads – disclosures should be made in the ad itself and before the consumer receives the ad’s message.

  • The URL (at the beginning) and meta descriptions must include a disclosure.

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