Amid finger-pointing on native ad rules, pharma gears up to do it right

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(Photo by Gabe Austin, Creative Commons license)

A study this week called out a majority of marketers for violating FTC native advertising rules, noting that only one-third use the proper labels.

Federal Trade Commission guidelines say the label on native advertising content, which often resembles a news story or article, should be in terms that are "likely to be understood." The FTC helpfully suggests "ad, advertisement, paid advertisement, sponsored advertising content or some variation thereof."

The problem seems to lie in "some variation thereof." The MediaRadar study detailed in Adweek found that only 5% of the websites reviewed included the word "ad" in labeling native ad content. That doesn't necessarily mean a foul; The New York Times passed muster by labeling some of its sponsored content with "This is a paid post."

The study determined that the most common label on native advertising was "sponsor" or "sponsored," which was used 54% of the time in the MediaRadar study of thousands of ads. Following that was "promoted," which was used on 12% of native ads. Fewer than 5% of ads used phrases like "brought to you by" or "partner content," according to the study, while 12% of the native ads surveyed had no label at all.

The pharma industry is relatively new to native advertising, so those kinds of labeling problems haven't surfaced much yet, said Justin Freid, vice president of emerging media at CMI/Compas, in an interview with FiercePharmaMarketing.

Still, he advises pharma companies to be proactive. CMI is currently finalizing native ad guidelines for its healthcare and pharma clients and publishers, and will use the word "ad" or "advertising" in all work, such as "sponsored ad," he said. Labels will also be positioned on the upper left or near the title, which is also an FTC direction.

Several CMI clients are currently using native media, including one that has placed articles about its clinical trials in an industry newsletter email to healthcare providers, Freid told FiercePharmaMarketing. Advertisers pay for the content to be placed in the second or third story position, the content is labeled as sponsored advertising, and in this case, it's seen positive results, he said.

"This year we started seeing more native advertising in media plans, but I wouldn't be surprised next year if it's not in everyone's media plan," he said. 

A study from Facebook ($FB) and IHS this week estimated revenue of more than $53 billion from native advertising through Facebook's Audience Network by 2020, and will be roughly equal to two-thirds of all mobile display ad revenue, Adweek reported.

- read Adweek coverage
- see FTC native ad guidelines