By Pam Jenkins

While some of our advertising brethren have long seen themselves as a step above public relations in the hierarchy of marketing services, they’ve long envied one of our core “outputs”– the editorial placement. No slick ad can match the credibility of a well-crafted news story or opinion column, particularly one that appears in a top-tier news outlet. So it should be no surprise that the advertising world has flocked to native advertising, a paid format that mimics the look and feel of editorial content. And media companies, eager to find new sources of revenue, have opened the door wide to make it easy to adopt this channel. In fact, in the broad category known as “branded content,” The Washington Post has a team of 50 ready to help you create the perfect, engaging piece of online content, created on the same platform as editorial.  In the U.S. alone, native advertising spend is expected to reach $20 billion over the next couple years.

Any time ads take on the typeface, tone, tenor and style of the editorial in which they’re embedded, there’s the potential for creating confusion among the readers and viewers.

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At Capitol Communicator’s PR Summit in Washington, D.C., on June 10, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Associate Director of Advertising Practices, Mary Engle, pictured above, reminded the audience that consumers have the right to know what is an ad, and what is the non-paid opinion of a reporter, influencer or publication.

“When it comes to disclosing, you should be clear and unambiguous,” she advised. The FTC takes the distinction seriously.  This past winter, they heavily fined Lord & Taylor for not disclosing payments to influencers, who used social media to post photos of themselves wearing the same paisley dress, without mentioning their deal with the national retailer.

Every marketing professional needs to be familiar with the rules of native advertising – with transparency serving as the guiding principle.  Always err on the side of disclosure.  Be clear and unambiguous when it comes to marking paid endorsements as such.  Those who try to fool the public are on a fool’s journey and may find themselves on the wrong side of an FTC judgment.

Pam Jenkins, president of Powell Tate, pictured at top of story, was moderator of the native advertising session at Capitol Communicator’s PR Summit DC.    (In 2014, she was featured in a Capitol Communicator “Up Close and Personal” profile which you can see here.)

Following the native advertising session at PR Summit DC, Jenkins was interviewed by Doug Simon, D S Simon Media about the native advertising session.

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