American Express Modifies Native Advertising Practices

Oct 02, 2014

American Express, which operates the website, has informed the National Advertising Division that it has modified its native advertising practices to assure that consumers who click on OPENForum images-plus-text "ad units" are aware that the content is sponsored by American Express.

NAD, an investigative unit of the advertising industry's system of self-regulation, examines advertising claims in all mediums for truth and accuracy. American Express maintains "OPENForum" where it shares information designed for small business owners and offers links to other American Express cards and services. American Express advertises the OPENForum site elsewhere on the internet through the use of content "recommendation widgets" from Taboola, Inc.

In its initial review, NAD was concerned that the links to OPENForum placed in Taboola recommendation widgets could be understood by consumers to mean that they were being directed to independent editorial content, rather than sponsored content. The links consisted of a small picture, the title of the article, and the link's label, which read "OPEN Forum." 

American Express, in response to NAD's inquiry, explained that "OPEN" is a brand geared to small business owners, that the OPEN brand was clearly labeled on the links, and that the links brought users to the OPENForum site for articles containing advice for small business owners. American Express further advised NAD that its labeling of links to articles on its OPENForum website had been permanently modified and such links are now labeled as either presented by "American Express OPEN" or "American Express OPEN Forum." 

The advertiser further noted that Taboola has in the past year begun the process of changing the "by Taboola" credit line to more clearly and conspicuously label identify its links as sponsored. 

NAD says it appreciated that American Express voluntarily made changes to the label on links to its OPEN Forum website, and that the changes provided greater transparency to consumers regarding the website to which consumers would be directed, an action NAD deemed necessary and appropriate.