Marketers employing contextually targeted branded content, or native advertising, have been warned by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) that they must avoid ‘camouflaging’ advertisements under the premise of contextualising them with publisher content.
Concerns have been raised to CAP over the misinterpretation of native advertising, essentially brand-generated content, which the governing body has attempted to rein in with new guidelines.
“This context-driven approach isn’t a problem in and of itself, but marketers must be cautious that, in seeking to make ads more inviting, they do not camouflage advertisements,” CAP states.
While an ad may appear consistent with surrounding editorial content, it must be clear that is an advertisement to the reader. In section two of its advertising code, CAP states ‘marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such’.
“Marketers should not assume that readers’ familiarity with ad campaigns in other media will mean that they will automatically distinguish an advertisement feature from editorial content,” continues CAP.
While native ad features are usually designed to resemble the editorial style of their publisher, they must now be clearly labelled with headings such as ‘advertisement’, ‘advertisement feature’, or ‘promotional feature’.
Labelling advertorial as ‘sponsored content’ may have been previously acceptable, but CAP recommends advertisers use clearer differentiators. ‘Sponsorship’ is not currently covered by the code and to avoid being misinterpreted for a traditional sponsorship piece, it should be avoided.
Outbrain recently fell victim to the ASA, which cautioned the company when complaints were received about links titled with ‘You may also like these’ at the bottom of an article.
Ruling that the ad content was unacceptable, even when it was followed with the ‘Recommended by’ footer, the ASA decided that ‘further information’ was an insufficient identifier and would potentially go unnoticed by consumers.
Lisa LaCour, VP Marketing at Outbrain, argued that native advertising was still in its infancy and therefore a continued lack of definition can cause problems for tech providers like itself.
“Content discovery is still a relative newcomer when compared to traditional web advertising, so the situation is fluid and there is still a great deal of discussion to be had about labelling and disclosure,” LaCour said.
"We’re continuing to work with regulators, publishers and consumer groups on a framework that satisfies all parties.”