In late 2015 FTC issued an enforcement policy regarding native advertising . The basic premise is that ads on websites should not try to appear to be something else than ads, as that should be considered deceptive. Unfortunately most websites are not playing along; a study found that 70% of sites under inspection did not comply with the FTC guidelines .
The other issue with the FTC policy regarding native advertising, is that it leaves a lot of room for the advertising industry that is known for its creative minds. The below screens are captured using a system configuration where the user is appearing to be child.
As an example of this, let’s look at a Lego Star Wars ad on cartoonnetwork.com:
Note how everything visible in the browser is actually the ad, but not only it looks amazing, it’s more or less impossible to say that it’s ad and not content. While the ad looks better than typical Taboola or Outbrain ads do, one might argue that its far more deceptive in terms of making it look like something else than an ad.
Let’s look at another example from the same site, cartoonnetwork.com:
In the section labeled as “COOL & NEW”, there is nothing but three different ads. Yes, the section is entirely made up of ads.
In short summary, it seems clear that there are big holes in the FTC policy regarding native advertising in itself, and some bigger ones in the self-regulation of advertisers related with advertising to kids.