BBB Code of Advertising Now Cracks Down on Disguised Sponsored Content

October 27, 2016

BBB has released an amendment to our Code of Advertising, impacting advertising, marketing, and public relations to align with new enforcement policies by the Competition Bureau. As of October 25, 2016, we are implementing a clause calling for clear labeling when the design, style, and functionality of commercial messages mimic editorial content.

The BBB Code of Advertising now has an additional section, #39, focused on native content. This new section offers some of the following guidelines:

  • Advertisers must not mislead consumers as to the nature or source of native ads they place, or cause to be placed, in any medium, including social media.

  • Where an advertiser promotes its products and services with sponsored content that consumers would not recognize as an ad, it must ensure that such content is clearly and conspicuously labeled as a “paid ad,” “paid advertisement,” “sponsored advertising content” or other similar words that state expressly that the material is an advertisement.  

  • Where an advertiser sponsors content that does not promote its own product or service, it should consider including a disclosure such as “sponsored by” or “brought to you by” to avoid confusion.

  • Advertisers should maintain disclosures when native ads are republished by others in non-paid search results, social media, email, or other media.

The above principles will apply to all advertisers, large and small. BBBs across North America will begin enforcing the new section immediately. Businesses failing to comply with the new provisions may not qualify for BBB Accreditation and could face the possibility of a lower rating with BBB. The most egregious cases will be affected enough to merit an F. 

Companies failing to make changes to questionable business practices may be referred to provincial or federal government agencies for enforcement.

For more information about Section #39 in BBB’s Code of Advertising, click here.

Review BBB’s full Code of Advertising here.