New Guidelines for Online Native Advertising Agencies

The FTC released new guidelines that will impact how online native advertising agencies use this ad format.“In evaluating whether an ad’s format is misleading, the Commission will scrutinize the entire ad, examining such factors as its overall appearance, the similarity of its written, spoken, or visual style to non-advertising content offered on a publisher’s site, and the degree to which it is distinguishable from such other content,” the new guidelines said.Labels such as “advertisement” need to be prominent in native advertising, according to the guidelines. “For example, disclosures that subsequently inform consumers of a natively formatted ad’s commercial nature after they have clicked on and arrived at another page will not cure any misleading impression created when the ad is presented in the stream of a publisher site,” the FTC said.Online advertising agencies also need to be aware that native ads similar in format and topic to content on a publisher’s site may also need a disclosure to prevent deception.The online native advertising guidelines suggest a more assertive stance on native ads, which are designed to more or less resemble the surrounding editorial on publishers’ sites. “Although digital media has expanded and changed the way marketers reach consumers, all advertisers, including digital advertisers, must comply with the same legal principles regarding deceptive conduct the Commission has long enforced,” the FTC’s statement said.The FTC has been reluctant to act against online advertising agencies, instead going after advertisers, but that could be changing. 2016 may be the year of the FTC pursing native advertising cases. The FTC guidelines are not laws, but publishers and advertisers who do not comply risk being held out as examples of bad actors, and there could also be financial sanctions. While protections are good for consumers, the guidelines could stifle some online advertising.


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