I recently saw an article in Ad Age about native advertising and it made me wonder—at what point does this kind of advertising go to far? Where do we drawn the line between clever and crafty?

Native advertising has become increasingly common online. For those who don’t know, it is a form of marketing in which the advertising material attempts to integrate itself into its surroundings. Perhaps the sponsored posts and tweets which have started appearing on Facebook and Twitter are the most obvious examples of it.

Recently, native ads have become increasingly subtle in style and placement. The two ads discussed in Ad Age are the latest and perhaps most troubling development—advertisements camouflaged as news reports.

The advertisements discussed are for Weitz&Luxenberg, a personal-injury firm looking for people harmed by General Motors’ faulty ignition switches, and were posted in the Mail Online. Together, the two ads focused attention on the potentially defective cars on the road and a lawsuit brought by the family of a woman who died when her ignition malfunctioned. The ads very closely mirror the format and style of a usual Mail Online article and come with a small disclaimer that announces their sponsorship. If what was written in an article written earlier in the year in Campaign holds true, it could even have been written by a Mail Online journalist.

There is, I think, a difference between a sponsored tweet appearing on your Twitter feed and an ad representing itself as news. Native advertising is one thing; deceptive advertising is quite another.

Image by faungg/flickr/CCBY2.0