The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), a self-regulatory organization of the advertising industry in the United Kingdom, has banned a ‘recommended links’ promotion for “failing to make clear that linked-to articles were paid for by advertisers.”
The sanction against content distribution business Outbrain has added fresh fuel to the fire regarding native advertising content and its relationship to editorial.
The ASA investigation was purportedly prompted by a complaint against an un-named newspaper which ran a ‘You may also like these’ bar on pages which linked to advertiser websites. The ASA determined that the links were not clearly marked as advertising content and subsequently banned Outbrain from using this format.
Conversely, Outbrain argued that the content “was not advertising in the traditional sense.” Company execs said the linked pieces would be better described as “’promoted content’ or ‘promoted stories.”
Still and all, the ASA concluded that the links were misleading.
“We considered consumers would not necessarily realize that the various different ‘recommendations’ included formed part of the same ‘panel’ and that they might not notice the ‘Recommended by’ text, which appeared in the bottom corner,” the ASA explained.
“We also considered consumers might not realize that the logo included a link to additional information. Nevertheless, we noted that marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such and considered the test ‘You may also like these’ and ‘Recommended by’, as well as the information provided in the pop up and in the link below the ad, was not sufficient to ensure it was obvious to consumers that the ad was a marketing communication.”
Francis Turner, managing director of native advertising business Adyoulike, which is part of the Internet Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) native working group, said the ASA’s view came as “no surprise”.
“The ASA ruling against Outbrain’s labeling of their ads is no surprise as we have been aware of the ASA’s stance for some time,” said Turner. “The ruling was primarily against terms such as ‘more from the web’ and ‘you may also like’, which do not by themselves denote that they are advertising placements.”
Various industry organizations are currently considering implementation of more defined guidelines on native advertising to address widespread concerns about the increasingly blurry relationship between editorial and advertising.
In April, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) released a set of “base line” definitions for marketers to help define the varying forms of content marketing and clarify terminology in the rapidly expanding market.
Native advertising has been embraced by marketers and publishers alike. Seen as a way to boost revenues, ePublishers and brands as various as Buzzfeed, Trinity Mirror, Bauer Media, and the Guardian have all embraced this new wave of content marketing.