TRUST_shutterstock_338745272When it comes to trust and digital media, it’s an understatement to suggest that it cuts both ways. It’s more accurate to state that it slices and dices as many ways as a kitchen appliance from an infomercial.

On one hand, it appears to be easier than ever to assess trustworthiness across the digital landscape.

TrustOnce again, Advertising Week has come and gone. And once again, I was thrilled to be part a special event for our industry. It’s not often that you can get famous statistician Nate Silver, Olympian Lolo Jones, and musician Bootsy Collins under a single tent, but they were all there at Ad Week along

A phenomenon that has been present as a form of advertising for many years is now blossoming in digital media and the subject of much discussion in the industry:  native advertising.  Native advertising is content that promotes a brand or product in the native format of the website, publication, or platform in which it is presented.  Native advertising looks different for each medium – for instance, a Sponsored Story on Facebook, Featured Partner content on BuzzFeed, a branded or promoted playlist on Spotify, or a traditional advertorial page in a magazine are all types of native advertising.

As more advertising dollars flow away from traditional display advertising into native advertising, the seamless integration of brand messaging into entertainment, news, and other content that native advertising provides has generated concern and debate over the need for adequate disclosure and guidelines to ensure that consumers are aware that the content is advertising as well as the need to keep the content consistent with advertisers and publishers’ core brand values so that consumers will remain engaged.

Last week, the head of Google’s webspam team published a YouTube video reminding advertisers and agencies that they must clearly disclose that native advertising content is advertising, including links that they pay content creators to include in content or paid search links purchased through Google, which consumers may otherwise believe are freely-endorsed or top-ranked pages.  This is not a new issue for the publisher or advertisers who participate in paid search placement, and was highlighted by the FTC in a 2002 letter responding to Commercial Alert’s complaint against search engine companies alleging that consumers were misled to believe that search results are based on relevancy or actual page clicks, when they were really based on paid placement.  The FTC declined to take action against the companies then, but issued warning letters recommending that search engine companies ensure that paid search results are clearly and conspicuously disclosed to consumers.

The Way I See It

  • I see publishers, content creators, blogs, advertisers, and agencies beginning to pay more attention to the business and legal issues surrounding native advertising, with an emphasis on more clear disclosure that native ads are paid content while striving to retain the organic, seamless qualities that make native advertising effective.
  • Many publishers will, like The Atlantic recently did after a negative reaction from its readers to a native blog post sponsored by the Church of Scientology, revise their editorial guidelines focused on how native advertising will be formatted, styled, and disclosed.
  • Continue Reading Native Advertising Isn’t New, but Considerations for Advertisers Are Just Heating Up

Increased mobility and access to information with digital media and mobile gives consumers real power to shape the marketplace.  Yet consumers can be fickle and easily distracted, to say the least.

With so many options and constant change, the question for advertisers is:  how do we determine what reasonable consumer behavior and perceptions are when the norm is rapid change?  Let’s look at some examples of what it means to be “reasonable.”

In a recent class action lawsuit, consumers claimed they were deceived into believing Fruit Roll-Ups and Fruit by the Foot snacks are made with real fruit.  Using the word “fruit” in the name, along with images of fruit on the packaging, could be enough for a “reasonable” consumer to believe that there was real fruit.  The court said that the ingredients list could not correct the message that “reasonable” consumers took away from the rest of the packaging.Continue Reading Choices, Choices: Do Consumers Really Know What They Want?