BBB Says Deceptive Native Ads Now Violate Advertising Code

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By George Khoury, Esq. on October 27, 2016 11:57 AM

Following the FTC's push last year, the Better Business Bureau just revised their advertising code to include new rules for native, promoted, and sponsored advertising content which has not-so-subtly taken over social media and the internet. The ads that the BBB are targeting with the newest regulations are those promoted or sponsored posts on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that are designed to trick the viewer into thinking the content is not advertising.

The new rule goes a step further beyond simply regulating deceptive sponsored, or promoted ads, but also regulates content that isn't even specifically an advertisement. For instance, the new rule recommends including a short, clear statement that explains who sponsored, provided, or paid for any and all content to be posted for a business.

Overlap With the Recent FTC Regulations

The new BBB rules overlap with the recent FTC push for truth in advertising in the digital age. The basic concept behind both of the regulatory schemes is that advertisers (which means anyone advertising for their business) need to clearly label their marketing efforts, not just their "advertisements," as advertisements.

Marketing efforts include not only the "advertisements" put out in the public, but also official employee social media accounts, statements made by the company or company representatives on social media, and where companies pay third parties to promote their products, company, or anything really. Basically, if a company pays anyone to say anything to the public, the FTC and BBB think that consumers should know who's paying.

The FTC has several guides that can be very informative for small business owners who are confused about what may or may not be deceptive or truthful advertising on the internet.

Penalties for Non-Compliance With BBB Rules

Since the BBB is not a government agency, but rather a private organization, a violation of a BBB code is not technically a violation of law. If you are member, they may be able to impose discipline, but it can't get you in actual legal trouble. However, the BBB does rate companies, and a low BBB rating can have a negative impact on your business. Many consumers will frequently look to see if a company has been rated on the BBB before making their purchasing decision.

It is worth noting however, that the BBB codes often mirror federal or state laws on business practices, and therefore if you are violating one of the BBB codes, you might very well be violating the law, too. If that is the case, a BBB violation could end up becoming something much more serious.

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