Conde Nast Reacts To FTC Guidance On Native

Publishers are still mulling over their reactions and opinions to the Federal Trade Commission’s guidance on native advertising, released last December.

Many are trying to figure out what it all means specifically to their publications and sites. Most are just trying to get a handle on the day-to-day and to identify pain points, areas where there is a lack of clarity and how new ad formats will be affected. It’s a lot to digest and discuss internally.

Native Insider spoke with a couple of publishers who are coming forward to comment on the guidance. And there are some who, for whatever reasons, have declined to comment, including Time Inc. representatives.  Hearst and Vice did not respond to queries seeking comment.

The New York Times, through a corporate communications representative, said its native ad standards heretofore have been “well-received”  and the issue isn’t an area of concern at this juncture vs. any other time.

Buzzfeed representatives told Native Insider via email that “It’s still early days for us, but of course, we're always testing and iterating our ad product and our product team has been reviewing the guidelines accordingly.” Buzzfeed UK was recently slapped by a regulatory agency for a questionable native ad.

Condé Nast maintains that at its core, the new guidance is “very consistent with the FTC’s prior guidelines,” according to Pat Connolly, SVP, head of strategy for 23 Stories, Condé Nast’s native advertising/brand content studio. “It wasn’t surprising to us," said Connolly. "It’s valuable to us in the sense that the FTC now has language for native. …It’s in line with a lot of the practices we currently deploy today. We were happy to see the additional language for purposes of clarity and consistency."

Connolly said he found the specific examples the FTC provided very helpful to the industry since there’s little consistency in the native space. “For us, there is some room for interpretation in terms of how the FTC defines ‘fake business’ and ‘fake politics.' Typically, the brands we have aren’t interested in creating a false front. The bottom line is, if the content is great, people will watch and read it if it’s labeled,” Connolly added.  

Condé Nast, he said, frequently sees pieces of native content that are two times more effective, socially, than editorial content—meaning it performs better than editorial content on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

“We are creating content that’s grounded with a strong understanding of the consumer. …What the FTC guidance says to any client is that the goal of branded content should be to create something of value for the audience, and it should perform as well as editorial.”

Connolly said his first priority is that Condé Nast is being consistent across its entire portfolio. “Our entire portfolio needs to live up to the guidelines—we must build consistency.”

While the FTC tried to be as explicit as possible, there’s a difference between a label that says something is advertising vs. “promoted by” and “presented by.” That language, Connolly said, is open for interpretation. If something is “presented by” and products are featured in the content or if a brand is underwriting the content, the brand must be called out, he said.

23 Stories represents 20 different brands in the Condé Nast portfolio, and it’s trying hard to protect their relationship with the audience while creating a viable product in native.

Next week: Politico's take on the FTC guidance.

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