The US Federal Trade Commission is taking aim at native
advertising and sponsored content. On December 4th, the FTC will be
hosting a workshop to examine the blurring of digital ads with
digital content. In advance of the workshop, the American Society
of Magazine Editors (ASME) updated its Guidelines for Editors and
Publishers by adding a new section to address native advertising.
The new section states that native advertising should be
prominently labeled as advertising, and the source of the sponsor
and affiliation of the author should be clearly acknowledged. The
term "Sponsor Content" can be used to label native
advertising. There should be a prominent statement or scroll over
notice explaining that the sponsor paid for publication of the
content. The content should be distinguishable from editorial
content, and for example, not use similar fonts and graphics, and
be visually separated from editorial content. Certain types of
native advertising used to be referred to as an
"advertorial". However, ASME's Guidelines, and the
industry, generally discourage use of that term.
It remains to be seen how native advertising will be addressed
in Canada. The issue has been on Magazines Canada's radar for
about a year, and is being considered by a committee. With all the
stakeholders in the magazine industry and divergent views on the
issue, building consensus can be a challenge. However, if the past
is an indicator, new guidelines can be expected, which may or may
not take cues from ASME. Magazines Canada's Code of Reader
& Advertiser Engagement (Code) currently addresses sponsorship,
and provides some guidance. The Code prohibits use of an
advertiser's name and logo to suggest advertising of any
regularly appearing editorial, and terms such as
"sponsored" or "brought to you by" are
prohibited. One-off editorial extras may be sponsored, for example,
special features, sections, inserts and onserts, provided the
editorial does not mention or endorse the advertiser, and the
advertiser does not have input in the creation of the
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The British Columbia Court of Appeal in Vancouver Community College v Vancouver Career College (Burnaby) Inc., 2017 BCCA 41 has reversed a lower court decision involving whether the use of keywords in online advertising constitutes passing off.
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