Native Advertising Review: NAD Examines Qualcomm/Mashable Sponsored Series

New York, NY – Sept. 30, 2013 – The National Advertising Division, in an examination of “native advertising” by Qualcomm, Inc., has determined that the company appropriately identified its sponsorship of a series of technology stories that ran at Mashable.com.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

As part of its routine monitoring program, NAD reviewed advertisements by Qualcomm, Inc. for the company’s Snapdragon Processors, microprocessors specifically designed for use in cell phones and tablets. The advertisements ran with Qualcomm-sponsored articles on a range of technology subjects at Mashable.com

In response to NAD’s inquiry, Qualcomm noted that it had entered into a sponsorship agreement with Mashable.com for a series entitled “What’s Inside?”

The series included 20 articles that explored the technology behind products that included Tesla cars, MiniMoog music synthesizers, the Mars Curiosity Rover, Lytro cameras, electric guitars, and the Large Hadron collider. None of the articles, Qualcomm asserted, addressed mobile phones or devices that contained Snapdragon components.

Further, the company said, Mashable advised Qualcomm that it follows the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s standard practices regarding the start and end dates for an advertising campaign and Mashable removed the sponsor messaging when the campaign ended.

Qualcomm noted that it did not direct the creation or subject matter of the articles and that the articles did not address devices that contain Snapdragon or other Qualcomm products.

Further, the advertiser maintained that the articles existed independently, without mention of Qualcomm, before the series began and continue to exist on the Mashable website after the sponsorship period concluded. As a result, the advertiser contended there is no continuing obligation to indicate the articles are sponsored.

NAD, in its decision, noted that it is a well-accepted principle that advertising must identify itself as such. Further, NAD stated, consumers can be misled when an advertiser conveys a commercial message without disclosing that it is the author of the message because sponsored content can convey an explicit or implicit message about a product, the benefits of using the product, or the disadvantages of a competing product. In such circumstances consumers have a compelling interest in knowing the sponsor of the content because the content conveys a commercial message that benefits the advertiser.

In this case, NAD said, the sponsored content was independently created before the sponsorship began and was controlled by the publisher.

Qualcomm’s sponsorship, NAD noted, was more akin to an advertisement that ran alongside an article for a period of time, rather than content written to further an advertiser’s commercial end.

NAD determined that it was appropriate for the advertiser to disclose itself as the series sponsor when its advertisements ran in conjunction with the series, but determined it was not necessary for Qualcomm to continue to identify itself as the sponsor after the sponsorship period ended and its advertisements ceased.