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IAB Concerned About FTC Guidance On Native Advertising

Trade Bureau Agrees That Disclosures Are Necessary to Inform Consumers, but Questions Government Role in Writing, Designing Ads

NEW YORK, NY (December 24, 2015) — The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) today praised the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) work to provide guidance to the media and marketing industries on the use of ‘native advertising,’ but questions several elements of the FTC Guidance. The trade organization intends to seek more clarification from the Commission, particularly on provisions in the guidelines that could impinge on commercial speech protections and longstanding advertising conventions familiar in other media.

“We very much appreciate the hard work the Commission has done to understand the issue of native advertising, and applaud the Commission for putting native advertising guidance into the marketplace,” said Brad Weltman, Vice President, Public Policy, IAB. “While guidance serves great benefit to industry, it must also be technically feasible, creatively relevant, and not stifle innovation. To that end, we have reservations about some elements of the Commission’s Guidance. In particular, the section on ‘clarity of meaning’ in native advertising disclosures is overly prescriptive, especially absent any compelling evidence to justify some terms over others.

We take the Commission’s final note to be a sign that enforcement in the native advertising space is not far behind this announcement. We hope that the cooperative, thoughtful and considered approach the Commission took in their exploration of this topic is reflected in future enforcement actions as we all move forward together to inform, entertain, and edify consumers, not fool them.”

The IAB, through the work of its Native Advertising Task Force in particular, has led the digital marketing and media industries in stressing the importance of clear, prominent consumer disclosures in native advertising. The trade organization has also been at the forefront of highlighting the important distinction of disclosure both before the consumer clicks on a native ad or other form of sponsored content, and after the click, when the consumer arrives at the destination site or page.

In 2013, as native advertising was starting to gain momentum, IAB released the “IAB Native Advertising Playbook,” the most comprehensive framework yet developed for understanding native advertising options. The Playbook focused deeply on the importance of eliminating marketplace confusion and provided “Recommended Industry Guidance for Advertising Disclosure and Transparency” for the ad units most often described as ‘native.’ In June of this year, IAB released an “In-Feed Deep Dive” document, which was a supplement to the original Playbook that focused exclusively on in-feed ad formats across various feed types and emphasized the importance of disclosure.

In 2014, IAB released “Getting Sponsored Content Right: The Consumer View,” a comprehensive study of U.S. online news users by IAB and Edelman Berland. The only significant consumer research to date on the value of sponsored content, the IAB/Edelman Berland study indicates a high degree of knowledge on consumers’ part about what sponsored content is; in particular, it found that overwhelming majorities of business and entertainment news audiences (82% and 85% respectively), could easily identify in-feed sponsored content.

Over the course of the last two years, IAB has counseled the FTC about the diverse and complicated world of native advertising. IAB participated in the Commission’s first workshop on the issue “Blurred Lines: Advertising or Content?” and invited the Commission to participate in an IAB hosted follow-up workshop one year later in New York City.

“The IAB has been vocal that regardless of context, a reasonable consumer should be able to distinguish between what is paid advertising and what is a publisher’s editorial content,” added Weltman. “While we are pleased that the Commission Guidance concurs with this point of view, some of these new mandates require further consideration in order to best serve both the media and marketing industry, as well as consumers who turn to the web for free, ad-supported news, views, information, and entertainment.”

The IAB Native Advertising Task Force, in conjunction with IAB Public Policy Council, will convene on January 5, 2016 to discuss the recently released FTC documents to provide more specific formal comments.

About the IAB

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. It is comprised of more than 650 leading media and technology companies that are responsible for selling, delivering, and optimizing digital advertising or marketing campaigns. Together, they account for 86 percent of online advertising in the United States. Working with its member companies, the IAB develops technical standards and best practices and fields critical research on interactive advertising, while also educating brands, agencies, and the wider business community on the importance of digital marketing. The organization is committed to professional development and elevating the knowledge, skills, expertise, and diversity of the workforce across the industry. Through the work of its public policy office in Washington, D.C., the IAB advocates for its members and promotes the value of the interactive advertising industry to legislators and policymakers. Founded in 1996, the IAB is headquartered in New York City and has a West Coast office in San Francisco.

IAB Media Contact
Laura Goldberg
[email protected]