The FTC has targeted native ads with their latest regulations. What does this mean for your business?

As more companies fight the ongoing challenge of ad-blocking software, native ads offer the promise of greater visibility. But with greater visibility comes greater responsibility.

Here’s the short version: The user should be able to recognize your content as an ad before clicking.

“Wait,” you say, “isn’t that the whole point of native advertising? To create ads that fit right in with the user experience?”

Why It’s Not Quite That Simple for the FTC

The FTC is really trying to guard against what it terms “deceptive ads.” However, even in that blanket term is a great variety of options for the marketer because ads are not compared to a single set of guidelines, but are taken in context. That’s why things get muddled when we talk about placing sponsored ads in a native environment. What would normally be an obvious ad, now suddenly becomes part of a news feed.

But is it an attempt to be deceptive or just good marketing not to pull consumers out of their little digital world?

It comes down to the details. Will the ad have to be a different size to stand out? Does it have to be labeled as sponsored content? Is placement of the ad the issue (this would be the biggest concern)?

In some ways, the issue is how much credit are we willing to give to consumers. At the same time, the FTC’s answer seems to be “not much.” That’s why our PPC ads on Google appear first or off to the side with that little yellow box that says “Ad.”

In the meantime, it means some trial and error for advertisers because, in the end, we’re the ones the FTC will hold primarily accountable. Unfortunately, the FTC guidelines also point out that everyone who even has a share in creating the ads will be considered culpable to some degree.

This leaves us with an even bigger question. Is it better to keep getting our ads blocked or to take our chances with the mysterious new FTC guidelines? As with so many things in the marketing world, it seems that only time will tell.