Posts Tagged ‘Federal Trade Commission’


Best Practices for Ethical Native Advertising

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Best Practices Ethical Native Advertising Ellis Friedman BurrellesLuce Fresh IdeasNative advertising has been enjoying considerable resurgence the past year, due in no small part to its potential to be mutually beneficial to advertisers and publications. Traditional sources like The New York Times are embracing native advertising as part of their strategy, with “high hopes” for its payoff. They follow online sites like Buzzfeed, Mashable, and The Huffington Post, all of which have already been using their editorial and production departments to generate sponsored content.

Native advertising is becoming more main stream, but that’s not the end of the conversation. Native advertising occupies such a gray area that the Federal Trade Commission titled a conference about native advertising after Robin Thicke’s popular but unfortunately misogynistic song “Blurred Lines.” Advertorial-wise, these out-of-focus lines arise when paid content resembles editorial content.

Why does this matter to PR pros? One of the appeals of native advertising is the chance to catch the attention of and appeal to a certain audience segment and receive instant feedback to reader reactions. In its worst cases, native advertising is a bait-and-switch routine; in its best, it’s an informative, useful item that also happens to be paid for.  Enter the FTC, which hopes that not only will there be a clear demarcation between editorial content and native advertising, but that the advertisers and marketers will self-regulate.

There’s nothing unethical about native advertising, as long as it’s clear to the reader that it’s sponsored. Of course, defining “clear” is a murky process, but we’re not here to define any guidelines; we’re here to look at ethics and best practices that PR pros can employ for native advertising. And many marketing or advertising pros aren’t so keen on labeling their advertisement, fearing that it undermines the purpose of the advertorial in the first place. But this fear may be misplaced, as some preliminary research shows that a third of consumers don’t care if content is an advertisement or editorial, and that many would be more likely to select an item if they knew it was an ad.

Being an ethical PR practitioner means that you don’t want to compromise a journalist’s ethics, either. And since one of the tenets of ethical journalism, according to the Society of Professional Journalists (SJP), is to “Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two,” the best way to start is with transparency instead of worrying about labeling the ad. This includes not only a label stating that it’s sponsored, but also physical demarcation such as borders and a different font. The FTC stressed, however, working towards such transparency should be a joint responsibility of publication and marketer.

During the FTC workshop, advertising widgets such as Outbrain or Tabula were a popular topic, however FTC staff pointed them out as specific examples of native advertising which were difficult to distinguish form editorial content.

The lack of hard and fast rules means that communication between PR/marketing/advertising and the publication is absolutely necessary. One way to do this is to work with outlets like Buzzfeed, which creates branded content in tandem with sponsors. It’s up to the outlet to ensure that in creating both editorial and advertorial content that journalism ethics are upheld.

An excellent resource to help ensure native advertising meets existing regulations is the FTC’s .com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising, and make sure to check it for periodic updates.

How do you work with ethical issues in native advertising? Will the FTC’s findings impact content marketing pieces picked up by another outlet, and what implications would there be?

FCC approves $30 Billion NBC – Comcast deal…with many strings attached

Friday, January 21st, 2011
Image Source: IWatchStuff.com

Image Source: IWatchStuff.com

The Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department approved a pending $30 billion joint venture which allows Comcast to own 51 percent of NBC Universal. The approval comes 13 months after the two sides announced their plan to merge one of the nation’s largest cable and internet operators with a broadcaster whose assets include NBC and Telemundo, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and Universal Pictures. Comcast controls 24 percent of the nation’s cable subscribers and NBC owns 12 percent of what is viewed on television. A match made in heaven? Not so fast… Over the last year this deal was met with heavy opposition from consumer advocate groups who argued consumers would have less influence over the newly formed company while online distributors worried about the possibility of having to pay a premium for NBC’s content, which would be controlled by one of their largest competitors in the distribution space. (Source: LA Times Blog, Entertainment News Buzz, January 2011.)

On paper this looks like an unstoppable combination in the making, and could potentially open the door for similar deals between content providers and cable and online providers. Although some were successful and some flopped, this is not the first time we’ve seen this type of marriage before – CBS/Viacom, AOL/Time Warner, Time Warner/Turner. With Comcast controlling NBC’s network and cable shows as well as their movies, it would seem their 15 million subscription base would be the perfect captive audience to view their content with competing cable and online providers forced to pay a kings ransom for the rights to their shows and movies. The FCC, however, put conditions on the deal to prevent any funny business with the hopes of maintaining as much “net neutrality” as possible.

One of the conditions requires Comcast to make its content available to all rival cable and satellite distributors as well as online distributors, and has to offer it’s content for the same price to everyone. They are also required to sell their internet service as a standalone service – this is significant since online distributors (Netflix) gives you the ability to access content without a cable subscription but requires internet service. The FCC is also asking Comcast to relinquish its day-to-day control of their online site HULU, allowing them to maintain an ownership stake but stripping them of any voting rights or the ability to suddenly make content unavailable from the site. (Source: Reuters, January, 18, 2011.)

So before everybody bows down to this newly formed Media behemoth, let’s remember… a lot has changed over the last 13 months since their initial announcement, and the conditions put on the new merger by the FCC (if enforced) will help neutralize any abuses of power. The consumer now has more options with the rise of online providers (Netflix, Google, and Apple TV) and will ultimately choose their services based on the quality of the entertainment, not the amount of channels offered or where the channel falls on the dial.

The pressure now falls squarely on the shoulders of NBC Universal. Without quality content from NBC, Comcast will quickly begin to wonder why they paid all of that money and went through all of the trouble of diversifying their business. The competition is sure to be fierce between cable and online providers; content providers will continue to fight for better licensing agreements for their content and in the end consumers will also have to ask themselves… is it all worth it?

The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace: Engaging Individuals One Poll at a Time

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

by Lauren Shapiro*

The White House recently announced that they are taking steps to create a manner in which online identities could be protected from hackers through the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC). This new initiative would provide individuals with online identification cards, ala drivers’ licenses or social security cards. This identity could then, hypothetically, allow for safe online banking and shopping. Although this program is quite a breakthrough and a necessity for the already burgeoning world of online transactions, it is not the first to discuss the issue of privacy in cyberspace.

White House

Flickr Image: ~MVI~ (Shubert Ciencia)

At the beginning of this year the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the FCC came to a head over the privacy concerns. And more recently the Federal Trade Commission considers implementing a do not track mechanism that would allow consumers to more easily manage targeted marketing.

What may be more interesting and certainly sets the NSTIC initiative apart is the communication strategy used by the White House.

The announcement of this program was made via a blog post by Howard A. Schmidt, cyber-security coordinator. In it, Schmidt describes the vastness of cyberspace, the relatively humongous role it plays in everyday life and the need for a greater emphasis on security within the online environment. The goal of the NSTIC is to, “reduce cyber-security vulnerabilities and improve online privacy protections through the use of trusted digital identities.” What better way to convey a message about cyberspace than in cyberspace!

The other PR savvy tactic: Mr. Schmidt asked for the public’s opinion on how best to mold this new proposal. By visiting http://www.nstic.ideascale.com/ you could submit ideas or opinions while browsing ideas already submitted and agree/disagree with them.

By empowering the nation to become an active voice in the creation of the NSTIC, Howard Schmidt has taken full advantage of one of the most beneficial aspects cyberspace has to offer – the ability to create an open forum of discussion and polling. Through this method, the White House will, theoretically, be able to create a system for the public by the public.

Do you use online polling or discussions during the creation of your PR strategies? Will we one day vote for the President of the United States via online polling? How does online privacy affect your professional communications objectives and personal activities? Please share your thoughts with the me and the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas. 

***

*Bio: Soon after graduating from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, in 2006 with a B.A. in communication and a B.S. in business/marketing, I joined the BurrellesLuce client services team. In 2008, I completed my master’s degree in corporate and organizational communications and now work as the supervisor of BurrellesLuce Express client services. I am passionate about researching and understanding the role of email in shaping relationships from a client relation/service standpoint as well as how miscommunication occurs within email, which was the topic of my thesis. Through my posts on Fresh Ideas, I hope to educate and stimulate thoughtful discussions about corporate communications and client relations, further my own knowledge on this subject area, as well as continue to hone my skills as a communicator. Twitter: @_LaurenShapiro_ LinkedIn: laurenrshapiro Facebook: BurrellesLuce