The Future of Native Advertising and Sponsored Content

Gina Deveney
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In recent years, native advertising has gotten a great deal of attention from advertising professionals and business owners. Recently, however, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has mentioned the possibility that it will regulate the use of native ads. As a result, industry experts are questioning the future of the practice.

Native advertising is a type of sponsored content that matches the tone and style of the content that a user is reading on the Internet. If a person is reading a blog, for example, native ads might appear in the form of blog posts. On the social media website Twitter, native ads might be promoted tweets or tweets that contain affiliate links to products. Native ads are designed specifically to blend into the content, so they feel less invasive and more inviting.

The trouble with native advertising, however, is that it enables businesses to mislead consumers. Because native ads resemble the rest of the content on a website, readers may assume that they are coming from the same source. When advertising professionals fail to distinguish ads from the rest of the content on a page, it raises issues of misleading the consumer.

According to a recent story from VentureBeat, the FTC held a workshop in December 2013 to discuss native ads. The workshop, which was called "Blurred Lines," was designed to help the FTC decide whether to regulate native ads. Unfortunately, the workshop did not leave the FTC with any concrete answers. As a result, the future of regulation for sponsored content and native advertising is unclear.

Regardless of potential regulation, it seems clear that native advertising will continue to be a popular option for businesses of all sizes. Modern consumers are constantly bombarded with messages; by using native ads, companies can avoid getting lost in the fray. Less intrusive advertisements also reduce the risk of irritating customers, or worse, alienating them.

As native ads become more popular, advertisers will need to find increasingly creative ways to promote their products. Consumers, after all, are remarkably adept at spotting advertisements. To keep customers' attention, advertisers will need to stay up to date on current trends and find ways to capitalize on them. For native ads to be successful, they will need to be timely. According to Advertising Age magazine, brands will need to respond quickly to Internet trends; in most cases, the process will require a dedicated employee to spot trends and find ways to use them.

Whether or not the FTC decides to impose regulations on native advertising methods, the practice is unlikely to go out of fashion. By staying aware of legal compliance issues and the latest advertising trends, you can help clients react quickly and use native ads effectively.


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