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The Federal Trade Commission Has Unanimously Approved an Enforcement Policy on Native Advertising

With the rise of sponsored content across multiple digital platforms, the FTC aims for transparency.
Magazines on a newsstand. Photo: Estherrr/iStock by Getty Images

Magazines on a newsstand. Photo: Estherrr/iStock by Getty Images

On Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission released a new enforcement policy to address native advertising. The decision was an easy one, as the FTC unanimously approved it 4-0. "People browsing the Web, using social media, or watching videos have a right to know if they're seeing editorial content or an ad," said Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection Jessica Rich in a press release.

Alongside the FTC's statement — which totals a whopping 16 pages that discuss deceptively formatted advertisements — a guide for marketers and publishers was released, providing 17 examples of ad content to help them discern whether a clear or prominent disclosure is necessary or not. "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," noted the guidelines.

Native advertising, also known as sponsored or paid content, is starting to become the norm for revenue across media companies of all sizes, from Condé Nast's in-house native ad studio to Fashionista's own "CoLab." Editors are well aware of native advertising's impact on consumers, too, especially since it generally blends in with original content. At the Initiatives in Art and Culture's 17th Annual Fashion + Design Conference in November, representatives from Harper's Bazaar, Glamour, InStyle and Editorialist discussed the importance of transparency and clarity between paid and original content. ASME already enforces similar guidelines for websites and social media on distinguishing editorial content from advertising through clear labeling and visual cues.

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According to WWD, failure for media companies to follow the FTC's rules could result in a multimillion dollar civil fine.