IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) has released (May, 2019) its 2nd report on native advertising (IAB Native Advertising Playbook 2.0).
 
At GreedyGame, we studied this report at length (10 days, 5 hours and 32 minutes). The report details how the native landscape has evolved from 2013 to 2018. The report is so extensive that we decided to break the report into a 3 part-series for us to do justice to the report.
 
In this 3 part-series of blogs, we will cover
– Guidelines on disclosure for native ads
 
This is the third blog in the series. We will cover in this blog the guidelines on disclosure of native ads. If you haven’t read the first and second part of the series, you can find the link of the blog here(part1) and here(part2).
 
Disclosure Guidelines for Native Ads
 
What does disclosure guidelines for native ads mean?
Disclosure guidelines for native ads are the instructions for the publishers, advertisers and marketers to provide clear signals(in form of language used, text, image, font style etc.) so that consumers should able to distinguish between what is paid native ad vs. what is editorial content.
 
Why is it needed?
Native ad landscape is fast evolving, producing increasingly effective and immersive ad experiences. Consumer perceptions of these ad products are changing as well, as viewers are becoming more accustomed and experienced in new ways of interacting with ads.
It is thus, impossible to devise one-size-fits-all disclosure mechanism for all types of native ads. But there can be minimum basic principles to be followed.
 
Due to advancements in native ad technology and new innovative techniques and ways to present native ads, they are getting ever more like the unpaid editorial content. Also, sometimes the viewer feels like he has been tricked into opening up the ad link by imitating the surrounding content. Around 2016, debate on this unethical nature of native ads was picked up. Around that time, FTC and IAB took steps towards resolving this issue.
 
About IAB?
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is an advertising business organization that develops industry standards, conducts research, and provides legal support for the online advertising industry. Its membership is comprised of more than 650 leading media companies, brands, and the technology firms responsible for selling, delivering, and optimizing digital ad marketing campaigns. In affiliation with the IAB Tech Lab, IAB develops technical standards and solutions. Founded in 1996, IAB is headquartered in New York City.
 
So what are the IAB disclosure guidelines?
IAB says that regardless of the branded content advertising format, paid branded content ad units should have prominent and clear disclosure signs. The disclosure must-
  • Use language – that conveys ads are paid for, and is an advertising unit, even if the ad unit does not contain traditional promotional advertising message
  • Be large and visible enough – for consumer to notice it in context of given page and/or relative to device that the ad is being viewed on.
IAB suggests that additional publisher disclosure initiatives can also be taken by publishers which are not mandatory but can help purpose of disclosure better. In addition to language, shading or other visual cues associated with native ads, additional disclosure cues like separate roll-over link using language such as ‘What’s this?’ to provide consumer with additional information on the origin of content in the ad. The language makes it clear that ad content has not come from publisher’s editorial staff and may include statement like “The content may not necessarily reflect the opinion of editorial staff”.
 
About FTC?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1914 by the Federal Trade Commission Act. Its principal mission is the promotion of consumer protection and the elimination and prevention of anticompetitive business practices, such as coercive monopoly.
 
So what are the FTC disclosure guidelines?
FTC will consider following factors when determining if an ad formatted like an editorial is deceptive-
  • the net impression that the entire ad conveys to the reasonable consumer in context of platform
  • any qualifying information in the ad concerned
Here, qualifying information, such as advertiser’s material connection to the content, must be clear, conspicuous, prominent and unambiguous.
Also, for multimedia ads, disclosures need to be made in the ad itself and before consumer receives the ad’s message. If ad has audio, then audio disclosure is recommended. For video, the disclosure needs to stay on screen long enough to be read and understood, and may need repetition during longer programming.
 
Legal precedents:
Section 5 of the FTC Act prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting
commerce.”
As the FTC set forth in its 1983 Policy Statement on Deception, a representation, omission, or practice is deceptive if it is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances and is material to consumers – that is, it would likely affect the consumer’s conduct or decisions with regard to a product or service.
 
Influencer disclosure policies?
Both IAB and FTC have their detailed reports on influencer guidelines with respect to disclosure principle.
According to FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking document in 2017, if there is a “material connection” between an endorser and an advertiser – in other words, a connection that might affect the weight or credibility that consumers give the endorsement – that connection should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed, unless it is already clear
from the context of the communication. A material connection could be a business or
family relationship, monetary payment, or the gift of a free product. Importantly, the
Endorsement Guides apply to both marketers and endorsers.
IAB’s Influencer Marketing for Publishers Guide(2017-18) recommends 4P’s of Full Disclosure for native/branded content as shown below-
  • Prominence – disclosure should be easily visible for the readers
  • Presentation – disclosure language should be simple and clear
  • Placement – disclosure location should be somewhere readers can easily find it
  • Proximity – disclosure should be close enough to the publisher’s offer for readers to connect both

 

Examples?
Example 1
The Winged Mercury Company sells running shoes.  An ad for the company’s flagship shoe appears on a financial news site.  The ad contains an image of the shoe, the headline “Run Fast, Run Smart, Run Winged Mercury,” and a hyperlink to learn more about Winged Mercury shoes’ innovative shock absorption.  The color scheme, font, and graphics of the ad look like the format of the financial news that appears on the site.  However, the slogan “Run Fast, Run Smart, Run Winged Mercury” together with the message to learn more about Winged Mercury shoes’ shock absorption likely convey to consumers the commercial nature of the content.  In addition, the subject matter of the ad differs substantially from the financial news on the site.  Therefore, a specific disclosure that the content is an ad is probably not necessary, absent extrinsic evidence to the contrary.
 
Example 2
A kitchen cabinet company paid an online lifestyle magazine, Styling Home, to create and publish an article entitled, “10 Must-Haves for a Great Kitchen.”  The article, which displays a series of images depicting well-designed kitchens, appears in the same layout as other articles on the Styling Home site.  Most of the images in the article depict and promote the sponsoring advertiser’s products.  Thus, the article is an advertisement.  The ad’s format, however, is likely to mislead consumers to believe it is an ordinary Styling Home article and reflects the independent views of the Styling Home writer, and not those of the sponsoring advertiser.  Therefore, a clear and prominent disclosure of the article’s commercial nature is necessary.

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