Providing crystal clear recognition of commercial backing is the main advice to filter out from the Internet Advertising Bureau’s (IAB’s) new guidelines for native ads. 

The association’s UK arm has advised marketers and publishers to provide more transparency into the way they serve advertisements that are made to look like editorial content. In one of the new points made, the group urges ‘visible visual’ cues to help users differentiate between paid-for ads and regular articles.

Clear labelling which “demonstrates a commercial arrangement” is also advised for native ads – a fast-growing form of digital inventory which represented 21% of all display ad spend in the first six months of last year.

Native ads require “visual cues” 

Although the official regulation of digital advertising in Britain falls at the feet of the Advertising Standards Authority, the IAB plays a crucial role in making brands and publishers fully aware of what constitutes as good practice

The IAB says it has been working alongside groups including the ISBA, the Association for Online Publishers (AOP) and the Content Marketing Association (CMA) to create a set of ASA-compliant rules for the use of native advertising.  

Where advertisers and publishers were told to provide visual cues for their placements, the IAB said this included brand logos or brand-associated designs; allowing users to identify where content was paid-for. 

As for clear labelling on native ads, publishers were asked to tweak their inventory options to fit in short statements like ‘paid promotion’ or ‘brought to you by’ in order to highlight examples of sponsored content. 

Along with feedback from the AOP and CMA, the latest batch of advice is based on a study from the IAB which found that users will lose trust in a brand or publisher if they are unable to identify where a piece of content has come from. 

Clamping down

One of the biggest cases of a group falling foul of ASA regulation for native ads involved content recommendation platform Outbrain. The ASA moved last June to ban a campaign which promoted links from third-party advertisers but without making the user aware of their commercial nature.

The IAB has been drip-feeding sets of guidelines for the appropriate use of native ads – the most comprehensive overview coming in December 2013 with a release for the ‘Native Advertising Playbook’.

This laid out six native ad categories as well as IAB-recommended disclosure principles for brands and publishers to consider. Ian Twinn, director of public affairs at ISBA – a UK ad trade body – said the new guidelines would go down well with brands.

“Advertisers welcome this timely and clear guidance on native advertising,” he commented. 

“ISBA has worked closely with the IAB to produce the guidelines, a further example of advertising self-regulation that delivers consumer transparency around advertiser funding of digital media.”

An additional set of IAB guidelines on native ads is expected to be published in Q2 of this year.