SPRING 2018 VOLUME 52, NUMBER 1
BARTOSZ W. WOJDYNSKI, NATHANIEL J. EVANS, AND
MARIEA GRUBBS HOY
Measuring Sponsorship Transparency in the Age of
As advertisers continue to develop new formats of online content that
blurs the line between advertising and news or entertainment, the
need to understand how consumers process covert advertising grows.
While regulators and industry practitioners agree that transparency
is paramount to preventing consumer deception, there exists no
established way of determining the extent to which a given message
transparently conveys to consumers that is a paid advertisement.
The current study makes the case for, develops, and validates a scale
to measure sponsorship transparency. Following traditional scale
development methods, the study generates a pool of items based on
consumer and expert input, reduces the number of items based on
empirical research, and evaluates scale validity and reliability using a
diverse national sample.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) considers false advertising as that
which is “misleading in a material respect.” The 1983 FTC Policy State-
ment on Deception is based on the following three elements: (1) There must
be a representation, omission, or practice that is likely to mislead the con-
sumer; (2) the act or practice must be considered from the perspective of
the reasonable consumer; and (3) the representation, omission, or practice
must be material. Given that advertising is a “paid form of persuasive com-
munication that uses mass and interactive media to reach broad audiences
in order to connect an identied sponsor with buyers,” (Moriarty et al.
2015, 6, emphasis added), tactics and practices that hinder consumers’
ability to identify advertising and its sponsor as such clearly fall within
the category of deceptive. The FTC directly addressed advertising that is
deceptive in format in its December 2015 Enforcement Policy Statement
on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements:
Knowing the source of an advertisement or promotional message typically affects
the weight of credibility consumers give it. Such knowledge also may inuence
Bartosz W. Wojdynski (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Nathaniel J. Evans (email@example.com) are Assistant
Professors, both at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia.
Mariea Grubbs Hoy (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Professor at the College of Communication and Information,
University of Tennessee.
The Journal of Consumer Affairs, Spring 2018: 115–137
Copyright 2017 by The American Council on Consumer Interests