Both the Federal Trade Commission and the National Advertising Division are keeping a close eye on native advertising, as marketers and publishers alike push the boundaries of sponsored native content.
While the goal of native advertising is to produce content that strongly resembles editorial coverage or news, the debate continues as to how the native content needs to be labeled.
A shining example of the blurred lines in native advertising was apparent in the September issue of Shape magazine. The magazine posted a full-page article chock full of facts about the importance of hydration. How the lines became blurred in this advertisement is that it was titled as “News,” yet was promoting a product linked directly to the magazine—Shape Water Boosters.
A fair question that arises is whether or not the lines were truly blurred in this example since the magazine is directly related to the product at hand. The advertisement labeled as “News” had no additional byline stating who it was sponsored by or provided by even though “Shape” is apparent in the product name.
After the review performed by the National Advertising Division (a branch of the Better Business Bureau), Shape magazine continued running their ad, but removed the “News” label and added a byline by the Shape magazine editor-in-chief.
While there is undoubtedly some gray area with this example, because Shape was advertising within its own publication, the Federal Trade Commission is working diligently to devise regulation and guidelines for the format of native content to ensure the lines aren’t so “blurry” in the future.