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Native advertising was a hot topic in 2015 and will continue to be one in 2016. In light of the recently announced FTC Guidelines for Native Advertising, D S Simon Media’s Eric Wright shares thoughts on what PR professionals, marketers and ad agencies need to know to minimize their risk.  

According to Wright: “The new Native Advertising guidelines state that even if claims made in your content are truthful, the FTC can still view them as deceptive based upon the format. This is a first and it changes the points of risk for the advertiser. Native advertisers can still be in violation of the new guidelines even if you place the words ‘sponsored content’ prominently in the native ad, which is surprising. The FTC claims consumers may not understand that the advertiser influenced the content. A safer disclosure would be “Content from (advertiser)” if you want to be in compliance.”

“While ad agencies and operators of advertising networks may be targeted by the FTC, it’s the advertisers themselves that are at the greatest risk. It’s imperative that they partner with firms that demonstrate an in-depth understanding of these issues as well as FTC spokesperson guidelines to minimize risk.” 

“One loophole for marketers is the guidance that ‘some native ads may be so clearly commercial in nature’ that disclosure would not be necessary. This is a significant gray area. Advertisers need to be cautious about using this to cover questionable behavior. The FTC will be looking to make someone an example in 2016.” 

This is an interesting take. While FTC is taking a stance on native advertising practices, it is leaving some new guidelines open for misinterpretation by marketers at the same time it is trying to prevent deception for consumers.

Eric Wright is Sr. VP, Marketing & Business Development of D S Simon Media, a video communications and digital marketing firm.  As part of his responsibilities for the company, Mr. Wright helps pair up brands and spokespeople, and helps ensure FTC Spokesperson Guidelines are followed.