FTC Investigating Sponsored PostsWritten by Michael Levanduski
September 17, 2013 # 8:18 am # Industry News, Legal Challenges, Specials # 4 Comments
The FTC has recently announced that they will be examining the use of ‘sponsored content’ advertising in digital media. The organization will be holding a workshop this December to discuss and examine these advertisements which are designed to look just like real stories posted on news sites and social media pages. Sponsored content has become an extremely popular method of marketing because of the fact that many people read it, under the impression that it is organic content.
The following is a comment released by the FTC, “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 FTC is looking into how advertisements are presented along with non-paid content on both desktop and mobile environments. It is also looking into how consumers view these two types of content, and how easily they are able to determine which are organic content and which are paid advertisements. The workshop is scheduled for December 4th, 2013.
The director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project, John Simpson, commented that this move is likely a precursor to a full agency report on the subject. He also believes that the FTC will be updating the DotCom Disclosures policy sometime after the workshop to help clarify the requirements sites need to follow when using content based advertisements.
The post made on the FTC’s official blog listed several questions they are asking themselves now, which will undoubtedly be posed to the workshop this December. Those questions include the following:
- What is the origin and purpose of the wall between regular content and advertising
- In what ways are paid messages integrated into – or presented as – regular content?
- What business models support the monetization and display of native or integrated ads?
- What does research show about how consumers notice and understand paid messages that are integrated into, or presented as, news, entertainment or other content.
The December 4th workshop will be free and open to the public. It will be held at the FTC’s satellite building conference center, located at 601 New Jersey Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC. The detailed agenda for the workshop will be posted at a later date.
What do you think about this move by the FTC? Do you use sponsored posts or other content advertising strategies? If so, what do you hope to see come out of the workshop?