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ASA rules that paid-for content must be obviously “paid-for” online

6 June 2014

The Advertising Standard Authority (ASA) have ruled on the 18th June 2014 that paid-for content recommendations often found at the foot of articles which contain the same look and feel as the website – should be more clearly identified as marketing communications to avoid being misleading. The ad complained of was placed by Outbrain and appeared on The Independent newspaper’s website under the heading “you may also like these” linking to an article entitled “Keep your email private”.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) deems the adjudication a “test case” and updated its advice on contextually targeted branded content reiterating that signposts are necessary if a marketing communication is not obviously identifiable by its presentation. Outbrain have said that they are in the process of changing labeling to “Promoted Stories” and that the words “Promoted” or “Sponsored” will appear on or near each of their paid links across its portfolio of partner websites.

The decision in this case could be considered as important as the ASA ruling on Nike’s Twitter campaign in 2012 which prompted a shift from brands into making full disclosures on whether tweets are promotional using hashtags such as #spon.

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