... instant feedback when consumers react to what has been displayed.
There's nothing new about such practices. Three or four decades ago door-to-door salesmen portrayed themselves as opinion pollsters; these days web pages masquerade as unbiased magazine articles. Even when such information is openly labelled as advertising, consumers are frequently misled.
Addressing several hundred advertisers, academics and media executives at a conference on Native Advertising earlier this week, FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez conceded that "the delivery of relevant messages and cultivating user engagement are important goals. That is the point of advertising.”
FTC officials said recent surveys of online publishers revealed that 73% offer native advertising opportunities on their sites, while an additional 17% are considering doing so this year.
Some 41% of brands and one-third of advertising agencies currently use such methods, the FTC reports.
According to Chris Laird, marketing director for brand operations at Procter & Gamble, sponsored content enables the company to “immediately measure the impact it is having on our business.”
Vigorous discussion during the conference made it clear that advertisers and marketers are loath to label an “advertisement” as such.
Says Robert Weissman, president of consumer advocacy group Public Citizen: "The word ‘advertisement’ tells people what is being done to them. The whole point of the word ‘sponsored’ is to avoid calling it what it is."
However, David J Franklyn, University of San Francisco law school professor, said preliminary results from his research showed that as many as 35% of the consumers in groups he has studied could not identify an advertisement even when it said “advertisement” on it.
While roughly half of the survey sample indicated they did not know what the word “sponsored” meant.