As part of its monitoring program, the NAD recently reviewed an editorial in Shape Magazine that promoted the benefits of certain SHAPE-branded products. The NAD was concerned that promoting the products in that format could blur the line between editorial content and advertising in a way that could confuse consumers.
As we’ve noted before, the FTC’s Endorsement Guides generally require advertisers to disclose any connections between themselves and those who endorse their products, if those connections wouldn’t be otherwise obvious. Shape’s publisher argued that the relationship between the magazine and SHAPE-branded products was obvious and, therefore, that no additional disclosure was necessary. The NAD disagreed.
Although consumers may be aware that SHAPE-branded products are related to SHAPE magazine, the NAD was concerned that consumers may nevertheless believe that editorial recommendations in the magazine are independent of the influence of a sponsoring advertiser. Accordingly, the NAD recommended that the publisher more clearly disclose content as advertising when it mentions a SHAPE-branded product.
This isn’t the first case to tackle this issue. We previously noted that the NAD asked a company to disclose it was behind several seemingly-independent recommendations of its products. What makes this case different is that there was an obvious connection between the publisher and the product. This decision suggests that the NAD may take a more stringent view of what constitutes “obvious” than would most advertisers.