Native Advertising: The Next FTC Regulation Target?

Picture depicting a white-board with the questions who, what, when, where, how to represent upcoming FTC meeting about native advertising
In December 2013, the Federal Trade Commission will hold the first exploratory meeting about native advertising. Does that mean content marketing regulations are on the way? Maybe, maybe not.

As of this writing, the government is still shut down, and the Federal Trade Commission has temporarily ceased all consumer watchdogging – but that hasn’t stopped a stream of FTC-related news from hitting the wires. A tidbit that caught our eye is a meeting scheduled for December 4, 2013 where participants will explore “blending advertising with news, entertainment, and other content in digital media”.

The First Time The FTC Will Formally Address Native Advertising Issues

Assuming the feds are up and running again by December, the commission will hold a workshop on content marketing, specifically, native advertising. This gathering marks the first time the Federal Trade Commission will formally address the issue of native advertising – and it got some industry folks worried that the regulation-friendly agency will start throwing their sometimes counterproductive rules around the content marketing industry.

“Don’t Worry, A Workshop Doesn’t Always Mean Impending Regulations,” Says FTC

The FTC, however, seems to want to allay any regulation fears. A spokesperson for the department, Laura Sullivan, attempted to mitigate suspicions by reminding interested parties, “it’s premature to say there will be a next step” when asked if this meeting is the first step towards native advertising regulation.

What Aspects of Native Advertising Does The FTC Care About?

It sounds like the December 4th FTC workshop on native advertising will concentrate on best practices and labeling of sponsored articles. Presumably, if the advertising agency can convince the FTC that self-regulation is the best way when it comes to the content marketing field, the FTC will leave this corner of the online advertising world alone and not take any “next steps” as Sullivan suggested.

What Do The Marketing Associations Have To Say About The FTC’s New Found Interest In Content Marketing?

As you might expect, the Online Publisher’s association and the Interactive Advertising Bureau are pushing for industry self-regulation, as opposed to federal guidelines. And who can blame them? After all, native advertising works – and it a rare bird that can’t decipher a sponsored article – especially since the law already requires publishers to clearly and conspicuously label all sponsored stories.

If you are involved in the online marketing business at all, this is something to watch.

If you are in need of a lawyer who has successfully dealt with the FTC in the past, contact Kelly Warner Law.

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