Nordic consumer ombudsmen comment on covert online marketing

The Nordic consumer ombudsmen met in Sweden, in late April, to discuss various topics, including covert advertising, on which the consumer ombudsmen have prepared a joint statement. The consumer ombudsmen view it as important that consumers are aware of the party behind an advertisement or offer, of what constitutes editorial content and of what constitutes paid content. New forms of web marketing often obscure this issue. 

Covert advertising and masked marketing have become more common as online marketing has increased. The statement by the Nordic consumer ombudsmen focusses on native and content marketing in particular.

In content marketing, advertisers create and offer consumers benefits, such as entertaining content for free, in order to attract and retain customers, whereas native marketing makes advertisers’ content available to consumers as part of existing media, using methods inherent in the media in question.

“It should be easy to identify advertising regardless of who the advertiser is and the media used for marketing. This legal requirement is valid in all Nordic countries. The amount of advertising has increased dramatically in recent years, particularly in the social media, which is usually used for communication between private individuals. This means that companies should take extra care when using social media, in one way or another, for marketing purposes,” says Finnish Consumer Ombudsman Päivi Hentunen.

Publishers, advertisers and professional bloggers are responsible for making covert advertising visible online. Whenever marketing or advertising is shown in places where editorial content is usually seen, it is particularly important to inform consumers that the content in question is in fact an advertisement or paid content. It must be easy for consumers to identify genuine editorial content and distinguish it from paid content that just looks editorial.

The Nordic consumer ombudsmen met in Karlstad, Sweden 27–28 April 2016. Representatives of the consumer ombudsmen of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Faroe Islands attended.