On December 22, 2015, the Federal Trade Commission issued tougher guidelines on native advertising to ensure that publishers, advertisers, and brands are clearly labeling paid digital editorial content as advertising. Their goal in establishing the new guidelines is to clearly differentiate paid content from editorial. Previously, native ads—or branded content—could have a similar look and feel to the publisher’s own content. The FTC believes this caused confusion among readers about what was sponsored content, often ambiguously embedded into entertainment programming or user generated videos on social media.
Under the new guidelines, publishers must now make clear disclosures that are prominently identified before the site visitor begins reading or viewing the content. For example, the word “advertisement” must now clearly appear near the headline in a brand sponsored post. Disclosures should be large and visible enough for consumers to readily notice them, with text colors that strongly contrast with the background. Further, any background shading used to differentiate native ads from non-advertising content should be sufficiently saturated for consumers to notice it. The FTC further suggests that native content contain other visual cues, such as borders, that set it apart from surrounding content, in case consumers cannot see color differences.
Multi-media ads will also require audio disclosures in a sufficient volume and cadence for consumers to hear and comprehend them and visual disclosures, again, must be displayed onscreen long enough for consumers to notice, read, and comprehend them. According to the guidelines, terms such as “Ad,” “Advertisement,” or “Sponsored Advertising Content,” are likely to be understood by consumers, but ambiguous terms such as “Promoted,” “Presented by…,” or “Sponsored by…,” could confuse consumers by insinuating that sponsors underwrote, but did not create or influence the content, and should be avoided.
Will this dissuade marketers from partnering with publications on native content? Analysts don’t believe so. In 2015, spending on native ads reached $7.9 billion, up from $4.7 billion two years ago, and revenue from native ads is expected to reach $21 billion by 2018. Native advertising benefits include driving growth—and this belief among marketers that native ads are effective exists because they allow brands to align with a trusted digital source to deliver relevant content to consumers most interested in their message.
The new guidelines don’t only apply to advertisers—publishers, ad agencies, or anyone who participates directly, or indirectly, in creating or presenting native ads can be held responsible. To avoid any confusion on the part of the consumer, all parties must identify sponsored content in a clear and easily identifiable manner. Marketers can be sure to meet all FTC guidelines by working with reputable agencies and quality publishers that adhere to the highest standards in the industry. Learn more by contacting Women’s Marketing today.
Sources: Federal Trade Commission Native Advertising: A Guide for Businesses, December 2015, Interactive Advertising Bureau