What The FTC’s Guidelines On Native Ads Mean For You

December 31, 2015
federal trade commission

Written by Benjamin Potter | Creative Director, CLICKON Media

The Federal Trade Commission released a set of guidelines on Tuesday which spelled out rules for the use of native ads. As content publishers we’re paying close attention.

The rules come after years of debating over whether native ads are misleading. In a statement by the FTC, they spoke of heavier scrutiny regarding all native ads across the internet.

“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,” said the FTC.
Native ads have relied on seamlessly fitting into a website’s editorial style like this successful NY Times ad for “Oranges Is The New Black.”

orange is the new black Native ads have relied on seamlessly fitting into a website’s editorial style like this successful NY Times ad for “Oranges Is The New Black.”

While labels such as “advertisement” or  “sponsored by” have been mandatory for some time, the FTC want publishers to inform consumers upon first contact with the ad. Publishers must now disclose to consumers if a post is an advert, ensuring that users are not mislead into clicking on what appears to be editorial content.

The FTC believes that native ads are getting an unfair advantage over traditional forms of advertising through careful disguise.

“The more a native ad is similar in format and topic to content on the publisher’s site, the more likely that a disclosure will be necessary to prevent deception,” the FTC continued.

So what does this mean for publishers? Those that ignore the FTC’s guidance on native ads will be found in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act, which bans “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce,” the FTC clarified.

Remember, our job as advertising men and women is to inform and entertain our consumers, not to deceive them. Just think of the amount of times you’ve been tricked on the internet and you’ll quickly realize that these new guidelines by the FTC are indeed improving the overall experience of the internet. When in doubt, disclose everything!