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Thursday, 05 December 2013 11:28

Online adverts could be illegal

Written by Nick Farrell



No more going native

A growing online usage of ads designed to blend in with the rest of a website's content may be illegal in some instances, according to the US watchdog the Federal Trade Commission. Dubbed “native advertising," the practice is being adopted by online publishers and makes "advertorial" and infomercials look like real content. Native advertising was long banned from print media because Journalists and Editors felt it damaged their credibility. Now that no one has any credibly anymore the advertising departments are pressuring for a return of advertising copy which looks like real news.

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said while native advertising may certainly bring some benefits to consumers, it has to be done lawfully," she said. "By presenting ads that resemble editorial content, an advertiser risks implying, deceptively, that the information comes from a non-biased source." If the FTC does make a stand on the issue then Buzzfeed.com will be stuffed. Among the content on the website recently was a list of "13 dogs who get an A for effort," sponsored by the pet food brand Purina Pro Plan, and a list of "15 Creative Snowmen That Will Blow Your Mind," sponsored by Columbia Sportswear.

Fortunately, Ramirez said the FTC was not contemplating specific regulations to deal with the issue in the online space. That would involve taking on big corporations in the interest of the consumer and that is not what US regulators are supposed to do.

In June of this year, the commission sent letters to certain search engine companies, which it did not name, urging them to ensure that they carefully distinguish search results from paid advertisements. The FTC also went after a company that used fake news sites to sell acai berry weight loss products, using logos like "One trick of a tiny belly" and similar come-ons.

Nick Farrell

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