The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB UK) has released a new set of guidelines for content-based marketing in an effort to stem any ambiguity over what is paid ‘advertorial’.

The announcement today (September 30) calls for an improvement in the signposting of paid content, and arrives amid ongoing industry dialogue around alternative display ad formats in the wake of reports of an increased use of ad-blockers.

The IAB UK’s new set of guidelines provides advertisers, publishers, agencies and ad tech companies with steps to provide clearer disclosure of content-based advertising in the form of ‘visual cues’, labelling and wording.

Consumer expectations

In a similar form to those released for native advertising in February this year, recommendations include brand logos or names at the head of each piece of content, and the use of wording that indicates a commercial arrangement is in place, such as “paid promotion” or “brought to you by”.

Based on the results of a commissioned study by the Bureau, the guidelines draw on print media good practice, says Christie Dennehy-Neil, public policy manager at the IAB, with people bringing their “experience and expectations of print media to the digital environment.”

“People recognise online advertorial as the ‘modern’ version of what they’re used to seeing in print so they expect the same standards of distinctive labelling and identification online. The UK’s advertising rules are clear on this, and these guidelines provide practical ways for businesses to comply with them.”

Brand trust

The same study found that consumers engage with advertorial based on its relevance, potential value they’ll derive, clarity in who the author is and whether they trust them - with this latter ‘diminishing’ if the authoring brand or publisher is unclear.

The IAB UK’s guidelines are supported by ISBA, the Content Marketing Association and Association of Online Publishers, who managing director Tim Cain commented that the recommendations “demonstrate that advertisers and publishers take seriously their responsibility to provide transparency to their audiences.”

Content and native ad spend - which includes paid-for sponsorships, advertisement features and in-feed distribution - took a 22% share of display ad spend in 2014, accounting for a total £509 million.