MediaRadar Blog

The Lines Between Native Advertising and Editorial Content are Still Blurred



Native advertising, particularly in-feed video, is gaining traction as a way for media companies to monetize digital content. However, the initial success of this ad format belies tensions between publishers and social media companies, and concerns about blurred lines between editorial and paid content, as explored in a new eMarketer report, “US Native Advertising Update: Focus on Video” (eMarketer PRO customers only).


In December 2015, after studying the issue for more than a year, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a lengthy set of recommendations for all relevant parties to clearly disclose the presence of native ads. The document included guiding principles, examples of when businesses should disclose that content is native advertising and instructions on how to clearly label native ads as such.

Since those guidelines were issued, an April 2016 report by from MediaRadar found relative uniformity in the terminology around native ads in the US. The most commonly used term among ads tracked by the company was “sponsor” or “sponsored,” with 54% representation. Next were “promoted” and the lack of labeling, tied at 12%, and other word choices made up the remainder. Despite the mix of nomenclature, this is an improvement over the scenario that prevailed until recently, in which an even wider array of terms was used to denote native ads.


In an earlier study, conducted in July 2015 by from Research Now for tech company from Contently, nearly half of US internet users polled at some point felt deceived upon realizing that an article or video was sponsored content. It is unclear whether the FTC’s actions or natural market forces have had any effect on the levels at which internet users report duplicity, but clearly rates a year ago were at a level that threatened marketers’ and publishers’ interests. It’s unlikely the situation is dramatically different today.

eMarketer PRO customers can view the full report here.

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