FTC Native Advertising Workshop on December 4, 2013 Will Explore the Blurring of Digital Ads With Digital Content

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Interested parties can submit comments and requests to participate

FTC (Press Release) The Federal Trade Commission will host a workshop on December 4, 2013 in Washington, DC to examine the practice of blending advertisements with news, entertainment, and other content in digital media, referred to as "native advertising" or "sponsored content." 

Increasingly, advertisements that more closely resemble the content in which they are embedded are replacing banner advertisements - graphical images that typically are rectangular in shape - on publishers' websites and mobile applications.  The workshop will bring together publishing and advertising industry representatives, consumer advocates, academics, and government regulators to explore changes in how paid messages are presented to consumers and consumers' recognition and understanding of these messages.

The workshop builds on previous Commission initiatives to help ensure that consumers can identify advertisements as advertising wherever they appear.  This includes recent updates to the Search Engine Advertising guidance, the Dot Com Disclosures guidance, and the Endorsements and Testimonials Guides, as well as decades of  law enforcement actions against infomercial producers and operators of fake news websites marketing products.

The FTC invites the public to submit original research, recommendations for topics of discussion, and requests to participate as panelists.  The Commission also invites the submission of examples and mock-ups that can be used for illustration and discussion at the workshop.  Topics the workshop may cover include: 

  • What is the origin and purpose of the wall between regular content and advertising, and what challenges do publishers face in maintaining that wall in digital media, including in the mobile environment?
  • In what ways are paid messages integrated into, or presented as, regular content and in what contexts does this integration occur?  How does it differ when paid messages are displayed within mobile apps and on smart phones and other mobile devices?
  • What business models support and facilitate the monetization and display of native or integrated advertisements?  What entities control how these advertisements are presented to consumers?
  • How can ads effectively be differentiated from regular content, such as through the use of labels and visual cues?  How can methods used to differentiate content as advertising be retained when paid messages are aggregated (for example, in search results) or re-transmitted through social media?
  • What does research show about how consumers notice and understand paid messages that are integrated into, or presented as, news, entertainment, or regular content?  What does research show about whether the ways that consumers seek out, receive, and view content online influences their capacity to notice and understand these messages as paid content?

Electronic submissions can be made online. Paper submissions should reference Native Advertising Workshop both in the text and on the envelope, and should be mailed or delivered to:  Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-113 (Annex X), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.  The FTC requests that any paper submissions be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions.  Requests to participate should include a statement detailing any relevant expertise in digital advertising and should be submitted by October 29, 2013 via email to[email protected].  Panelists selected to participate will be notified by November 6, 2013.

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So now franchisors have to not only be compliant with the FTC Franchise Rule, but also have to ensure that the blogger articles and sponsored articles in online trade publications are compliant with more FTC requirements?

A number of trade journals routinely run stories that appear to me to be PR pieces for franchisors - without any disclosure that the piece is an advertorial.

Some online trade journals appear to have an entire business model built around this advertorial scheme.

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