FTC looking into deceptive online advertising


FTC / Federal Trade CommissionOne of the guiding regulatory principles of advertising is that it must be easily recognized for what it is, and its sponsor should be clearly identified. However, in the wild wild west that is the online environment, the Federal Trade Commission is concerned that advertising messages can be presented in such a way that they are indistinguishable from the content in which they are embedded. A workshop to explore the topic is now on the schedule.

The session, which will look at “native advertsing” and “sponsored content,” is scheduled for 12/4/13 in Washington, and will include “…publishing and advertising industry representatives, consumer advocates, academics, and government regulators.”

From the FTC, here are the primary issues on the agenda:

* 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?