With interest in native advertising surging, it was only a matter of time before the powers that be decided to get involved. This week brought the first rumblings of government interest (and
possibly intervention) as the Federal Trade Commission announced that it will host a workshop on native ads in Washington D.C. on Dec. 4.
The workshop, titled “Blurred
Lines: Advertising or Content?” will include representatives from the publishing and advertising industries, as well as consumer advocates and industry organizations to examine the ways
native ads are presented to consumers, consumer understanding of native ads and distinguishing native ads from editorial content.
Speakers will include staff attorney Lesley Fair,
addressing the history of advertorials and infomercials; Columbia Journalism School professor Nicholas Lemann, on the origin and purposes of the wall between editorial and advertising; and Bob
Garfield, co-host of On the Media and a MediaPost columnist, on the reputational risk to publishers inherent in native advertising.
The workshop will also include panel discussions
addressing the basic forms of sponsored content, consumer recognition and understanding of native ads, and best practices for establishing transparency around native ads.
industry organizations are already moving to create self-regulatory frameworks governing native ads. In October, the American Society of Magazine Editors released an updated version of its editorial
guidelines with new suggestions for best practices surrounding native advertising.
Among other things, ASME said native ads “should not use type fonts and graphics resembling those
used for editorial content and should be visually separated from editorial content.”
ASME also suggested that magazine publishers differentiate native ads by labeling them
“Sponsor Content,” as well as prefacing or accompanying them with a prominent statement or link to a statement “explaining that the content has been created by a marketer and that
the marketer has paid for its publication.&rdquo