The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that they are holding a workshop on native advertising on December 4 of this year in Washington DC. Here, they plan to examine the practice of blending advertisements with news, entertainment, and other content in digital media formats (also called sponsored content). The FTC hopes to pull together publishing and advertising industry representatives, consumer advocates, academics, and government regulators to explore current changes in how paid messages are presented to consumers—particularly those advertisements that are more and more closely resembling the content in which they are embedded.
Native advertising has been in the news lately, with Google’s Matt Cutts calling out advertorials for violating Google’s webmaster guidelines, particularly when the advertisements aren’t clearly labeled. Advertorials have particularly come under fire since this content is often misinterpreted as being legitimate and unbiased news, when in actuality it is being paid for by an advertiser. Internet marketing experts suggest that in turning its eye toward native advertising, the FTC could be taking a closer look at things like a blogger being paid to write a “sponsored post,” where it’s only stated in tiny letters at the bottom of the page that the content could potentially be a paid advertisement. If the FTC decides to include this type of content generation under the heading of native advertising, this could have a widespread effect, particularly among those bloggers who make a living writing these types of posts.
The announcement of this upcoming workshop follows a trend that has emerged this year where the FTC has been looking closely at online advertising practices. In fact, earlier this year the FTC updated their established guidelines for search engines in an effort to differentiate natural free listings from paid advertisements, paid placements, and paid inclusion type programs.
As of now, there aren’t any standard guidelines in place when it comes to advertorials, as this type of advertising tends to be spammy to begin with. This stands in stark contrast to other types of Internet advertising, such as banner ads or pay per click ads, that must adhere to specific guidelines and regulations.
Slegg, Jennifer. “FTC Giving Native Advertising a Closer Look.” Search Engine Watch. 9/18/13.