news November 30, 2023

NAD Focuses on Native Advertising in Recent Monitoring Cases

by Lauren Aronson

Native advertising has been a focus of recent monitoring activity at the National Advertising Division (NAD), the advertising industry’s self-regulatory body. NAD has issued important guidance for brands working with online publishers to create content to ensure that marketing content does not misleadingly appear to be editorial.

NAD recently completed a monitoring inquiry of the sneaker brand Cariuma.[1] The brand sends publishers Travel + Leisure (T+L) and US Weekly a press pitch along with sample sneakers and company information. The publishers are paid a commission for all sales made through links in the articles, and the publishers have complete editorial control. Cariuma also has a contract with publisher The Quality Edit (TQE) to elevate brand awareness and drive volume through published articles and social media posts. TQE has complete editorial control over the content, like T+L and US Weekly.

However, Cariuma may request that publishers amplify an article or pictures from the article on the publishers’ social platforms, which may result in further commissions via embedded links. While the posts were labeled “sponsored,” NAD found it unclear whether the publisher or Cariuma sponsored them. The publishers did not identify the material connection between the publisher and Cariuma in the posts, leaving consumers unaware that the posts were paid endorsements by Cariuma. Thus, NAD recommended clear and conspicuous disclosure of the material connection in the social media posts.

In November, NAD also issued a decision in a monitoring case against skincare company The Glow Fairy.[2] NAD challenged the claims “5 Best Eye Creams – 2022 Doctor Recommended” and “2023’s ‘5 Best’ Eye Creams on the Market” along with the implied claim that and Beauty and Style Daily pages featuring these claims reflect the independent, honest opinions of the reviewers. The challenged claims appeared in Google search results. The “About Us” page on Beauty and Style Daily features a woman described as a Senior Research Editor with text describing how she and her team tested dozens of eye creams on the market, but a hyperlink at the bottom of the page directs consumers to the Glow Fairy website. Even though the #1 product on the page is a Glow Fairy product, there was no disclosure that the web page was Glow Fairy advertising. NAD recommended that the advertiser disclose when it is advertising and avoid displaying advertising as editorial content.

In June, NAD completed a monitoring inquiry of Dot Dash Meredith, publisher of InStyle magazine. [3] InStyle published an article with the claims “This Reese Witherspoon-Approved Eye Cream Hydrates and Brightens” and “Shoppers say it fades fine lines “almost immediately.” While InStyle disclosed that it may earn commission through affiliate links, NAD was concerned that consumers would not understand the impact of those economic relationships on writing the article. Further, NAD found that InStyle did not clearly and conspicuously disclose Ms. Witherspoon’s status as a Biossance brand ambassador, burying the disclosure in the middle of the article.

Takeaways:  Make sure the publishers your brands are working with clearly disclose material connections. To be legally compliant, consumers must understand when the content is actually advertising and not organic editorial content. Furthermore, even if disclosures are sufficient to convey the nature of the relationship in one context (e.g., on the publisher’s website) when sponsored articles are posted and shared on social media, the disclosures may not be adequate to convey to consumers the nature of the relationship between the publisher and the brand.

[1] Cariuma Central Pte., Ltd. (Cariuma sneakers), Report #7168, NAD/CARU Case Reports (November 2023)

[2] The Glow Fairy (Advertising for and, Report #7176, NAD/CARU Case Reports (November 2023)

[3] Dotdash Meredith (InStyle Magazine article – Biossance Squalane & Marine Algae Eye Cream), Report #7177, NAD/CARU Case Reports (June 2023)