In the UK, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) advisory panel, which writes ad rules on behalf of the Advertising Standards Authority, has issued a note to brands in response to a growing number of requests for guidance from creative departments, Marketing Week reported.
"Marketers seeking to innovate should be wary of integrating content to an extent that it is no longer identifiable as an ad," the CAP warned.
CAP also recently issued guidance to bloggers being approached by advertisers or third parties acting on their behalf to write positive copy for payment. "Marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such," it stated.
In the US, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is this week hosting an informal workshop for advertisers, publishers and legal experts entitled Blurred Lines: Advertising or Content?
The Wall Street Journal noted that while this was neither a hearing nor an investigation "it could serve as a jumping-off point for the FTC … to eventually establish guidelines governing sponsored-content practices."
The industry is taking steps towards self-regulation, as the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has already formed a Native Advertising Task Force, which includes 80 advertisers, media owners and technology providers, to agree on best practice in this area.
The growing confusion surrounding this was highlighted in a recent survey of its members by the UK arm of the IAB. Just over half (52%) said they knew what native advertising was but they needed more information on it.
And the scale of this advertising format is evident in AOL's forecast that 40% of its online revenues will come from native ads in 2014 and that these will overtake other online formats by 2025.
But brands have the potential to completely mess this up and approach native advertising like traditional push marketing, warned Darika Ahrens, of content marketing agency London Stock.
Writing in Admap, she argued that the 'brands must become publishers' proposition was unrealistic and that they instead needed to hire experts and create partnerships.
And she dismissed the nomenclature argument. "What's important is for brands to work out how to create content of value that will give the required value exchange, not whether that content should be called a native advertising unit or a sponsored post," she said.
Data sourced from Marketing Week, Wall Street Journal, CAP, Admap; additional content by Warc staff