‘Lack of clarity in native advertising damages consumer trust’ warns the IAB

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has released its first set of guidelines that aim to make digital native advertising clearer, as it warns that consumer’s trust with brands can be damaged without further clarity.

As the lines increasingly blur between ads and editorial in online channels, the IAB has published practical guidelines today (9 Feb) that marketers can implement into campaigns to make it easier for consumers to spot advertising.

Key guidelines from the body call for advertisers to provide consumers with prominently visible visual cues. Brand logos, fonts, or shading around editorial content are recommended to enable consumer’s to understand that they are engaging with marketing content.

Additionally the IAB suggests that advertisers should label clearly using wording that demonstrates a commercial arrangement is in place, so using labels such as ‘paid promotion’ in-feeds or posts.

Alex Stepney, the public policy manager for the IAB, told Marketing Week: “There has been a huge amount of interest in content marketing over the last few years, and with that a rise in innovative native distribution formats. With these guidelines and our consumer research we are seeking to maintain consumer trust in the industry.”

Last year (April 2014), the IAB’s content marketing and native advertising council- made up of leading media owners such as Facebook, Buzzfeed and Google developed guidelines to define the often blurry meaning of ‘native advertising’.

According to the council, native advertising is defined as ‘content matching’ and can appear in-feed, in-line and in ‘content experience’ formats. One example of this would be promoted tweets, but the definition could include a range of different products and services which vary by company, platform and channel.

The IAB’s guidelines will work alongside codes set by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) the advertising industry’s code for non-broadcast marketing communications, which is administered and enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The CAP code sets standards to make marketing communications obviously identifiable, and calls for marketers and publishers to make it clear that advertorials are presented as obvious marketing communications.

Last year, Outbrain, a promotional content recommendation platform often seen at the bottom of articles on well-known publishers such The Daily Telegraph and CNN, received ruling from the CAP which stated that its ads were misleading because it did not make it clear enough that it was marketing communication.

Outbrain placed ads in a “you may also like” heading at the bottom of the page, without clearly identifying the content within the links as advertising.

More recently, Mondelez-owned Oreo, was one of the first brands to be reprimanded by the ASA, for its “Oreo Lick Race” campaign which saw Youtube bloggers promote the product without identifying it as brand sponsored content. The CAP called for ads on Youtube to be “obviously identifiable” from the case onwards.

As native advertising becomes increasingly popular guidelines become more important for clear communication between brands and the consumer. The IAB’s annual spend study saw that in the first half of 2014 £216m was spent on native and in-feed formats. This represented 20% of the total digital display market and over 40% of mobile display advertising.

Consumer relationship with brands

The IAB’s guidelines were based on a study specifically commissioned to understand consumer attitude to native advertising.

The study revealed that people decide to engage with native content based on how relevant it is to them, the value they will receive from it and if it’s clear who it is from.

People’s trust in a brand can be damaged if the origin of the content is unclear, according to consumer opinion in the study.

Clarity for consumers means clear visual information, labelling and colour differentiation.

A second part of the guidelines is set to be published in the second quarter of 2015.

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