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Native Advertising, FTC, and You

121971017_97d0b5c06a_o Many advertisers and web publishers are going to use the increasing use of ad blockers as an excuse to start mixing more "native" advertising in with news and editorial, so today I took some time to gather links into the start of a notebook on the topic.

Table of Contents

Who & What

Native Advertising is the term used to describe articles published by websites and print periodicals that were either written by an advertiser or written to that advertiser’s requirements.

Unlike most articles, which are (hopefully) written just to inform, native advertising is published "with the specific intent to promote a product, while matching the form and style which would otherwise be seen in the work of the platform’s editorial staff" (Wikipedia).

Here’s one example over at Forbes.

This is a hot topic right now, in certain circles,with some expecting native advertising to become more common in 2016, while others either discuss or are concerned about the FTC’s new rules.


… to find more information

Speaking of which, the FTC published new guidelines last month concerning native advertising. The new rules expand upon the existing rules on how bloggers are required to disclose the freebies and other compensations they receive from advertisers and other companies (because those freebies could bias coverage, obviously).

The tl;dr version is that FTC regulations say that native advertising has too be clearly identified as such. For your reference:

  • Native Advertising: A Guide for Businesses (FTC)
  • .COM Disclosure – PDF (FTC)

That PDF was published in 2013, so it is a little out of date. But it is also the most current source of info on the topic.


… am I posting this now?

It occurred to me today that I don’t know how prevalent native advertising is because, so far as I can tell, a lot of it is not adequately labeled.

For example, ESPN was recently faulted when its staffers tweeted paid tweets and did not disclose that fact, and remember when that Instagram star quit back in October (and in doing so, revealing that some of her photos were paid adverts)?

Those are just two examples off the top of my head; there are bound to be many more.

So in the interest of helping everyone become more informed readers, I thought it would be useful to point out that detail and get everyone looking more closely at what they read.

Buzzfeed, for example, is one web publisher that has a close relationship with advertisers, so much so that you often can’t tell where the ads start and the content ends.

Is this Buzzfeed post native advertising, and if so is it adequately labeled?

You tell me.

And while we’re on the topic, the Forbes link above lists the advertiser as the author but does not explicitly call out the content as advertisements, and so it arguably does not meet FTC guidelines (but that point could be argued both ways).

2016 is the year that readers will have to ask themselves whether that blog post, FB update, tweet,on Instagram photo is original content or is really a disguised advert.

If you think it is an ad, and it’s not labeled as such, feel free to ask. The publisher will have to disclose that fact, but you should also be prepared to get yelled at if you are wrong. Some publishers don’t do native advertising, and they will get pretty pissed if you suggest otherwise.

But don’t let that discourage you. If people don’t ask this question then the advertisers who are breaking the rules will continue to do so.

And that doesn’t help anyone.

images by northbaywanderer,

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purple lady January 9, 2016 um 11:56 am

If you think native advertising should be labeled, why didn’t you say that you were paid for this post until someone asked you?

Nate Hoffelder January 9, 2016 um 12:02 pm

I haven’t figured out how to label it yet. I’m having email discussion on the matter.

Jason van Gumster January 11, 2016 um 2:57 pm

I’m of two minds when it comes to native advertising. On the one hand, it’s a covert and potentially misleading form of advertising… particularly when done poorly. However, on the other hand, a well-done native ad more closely resembles "real" content and may actually (accidentally?) provide salient, useful information.

All in all, despite the potential for deception in native ads, I find it amusing that web culture is kind of guiding marketers away from in-your-face broadcast advertising and more towards producing useful content. It’s like they’re just now learning that if you provide people with useful things that they want to know about, then there’s a higher likelihood that they’ll become customers. Looking at it from that perspective, it’s almost like the internet has tricked marketers into being valuable contributors to society. 😛

Nate Hoffelder January 12, 2016 um 7:29 am

Jason, I am of several minds on this issue. I was entirely opposed to it – until I needed the money and someone made me an offer I could _almost_ accept.

Others still question the ethics of native advertising, however.

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