Ad or Not? People Magazine’s ‘Stuff We Love’
June 10th, 2016
Embedded within editorial content on People.com is a section called “Stuff We Love” with the current headlines “WATCH: The Comfiest Sandals for Summer” and “WATCH: This Is the Most Flattering Dress You’ll Ever Find.” Actually, maybe “headlines” isn’t the most accurate word to describe the content, which is, in fact, advertising. Good luck making that distinction, though.
In a recent decision regarding the lack of disclosure of a partnership between the celebrity magazine and Joyus, which is an e-commerce platform that promotes and sells its products through shopping videos it creates on the “Stuff We Love” page, the National Advertising Division (NAD) ruled:
Consumers do not know that “Stuff We Love” is promoting products for sale in the videos before watching the shopping video. As a result, consumers could give greater credence to claims made in the product descriptions (for example, “the comfiest sandals for summer”) than they would if they were aware that this is a form of advertising, and further, consumers may interact with this content because they think it is editorial and not advertising.
Citing an FTC enforcement policy statement on deceptively formatted advertisements, NAD recommended that Joyus disclose on referring pages, such as the People style page, that the “Stuff We Love” page is a shopping section. Said NAD:
The link itself or text surrounding the link should advise consumers that the content to which consumers are linking is an advertisement or make clear that the links are “shopping” links.
In response to the NAD decision, which also looked at health claims for an anti-wrinkle cream sold by Joyus through the “Stuff We Love” page that have since been discontinued, Joyus pledged that it would work with People to implement changes on the style page and other referring webpages. A People spokesperson told TINA.org much the same, saying the magazine “is currently working together with Joyus and the NAD on a solution to ensure transparency for our audience.”
But there does not seem to be any rush toward transparency. Nearly a month after the case was closed on May 19, there’s still no disclosure on the People style webpage that clicking “Stuff We Love” links to advertising content:
If Joyus or People is reading, here’s a quick fix: “AD: Stuff We Love.” Or, how about moving the page to where it really belongs: the shopping section of the website.
Find more Ad-or-Not posts here.
The National Advertising Division, or NAD, is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. NAD asks advertisers to substantiate or change their claims in advertisements. As part of a voluntary system of self-regulation, however, its recommendations can be ignored by the offending advertisers. In those instances, NAD refers the offender to federal consumer protection agencies.