New Zealand's Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA") has issued a Guidance Note to help advertisers, agencies, the media, influencers and the community understand what steps should be taken to ensure that advertising is clearly identified as such to its audience, as required by the ASA's Code of Ethics. Much like the FTC's guidance on native advertising, this Guidance Note emphasizes the importance of transparency: ensuring that readers will understand when content is an ad.

The Guidance Note outlines two important steps. First, it is important to determine whether the content is in fact an ad.  The Note defines advertising as "any message, the content of which is controlled directly or indirectly by the advertiser, expressed in any language and communicated in any medium with the intent to influence the choice, opinion or behaviour of those to whom it is addressed."   Interestingly, this definition is arguably broader than what is considered "advertising" by the FTC.

Second, the advertiser must determine whether the ad is appropriately identified as such to the relevant audiences.  Like the FTC, the ASA says that there is flexibility in determining what types of identifiers may be used.  Relevant factors would include the position, size and clarity of the identifier; the length of time the identifier is present; the clarity of the identifier is equal on different mediums / devices; and the likely interpretation of the identifier by the audience.  If necessary, the advertiser should use labels -- like #Sponsored --  to clearly identify ads as ads.

Where it is not obvious or well understood by an audience that content is an advertisement, all parties to the advertisement (e.g. advertiser, agency, media, influencer) are responsible for ensuring the audience is aware they are engaging with an advertisement.

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