While native advertising is a fairly new method of mobile and online advertising, the Internet Advertising Bureau estimates that 74% of publishers now provide sponsored content through a native ad format.
With drastic growth in native advertising occurring over the last 12 months, there is much talk about regulating native advertising to ensure it works within specific and appropriate parameters. While much native advertising is accompanied by a “sponsored by” or provided by” label, some is posted with insufficient labeling – or none at all.
Whether labeled or unlabeled, native content runs the risk of making publishers seem biased towards brands and products, and many worry that it tarnishes editorial independence.
The challenge at hand involves finding a way to regulate native ads that allows publishers to benefit from the sponsored content, without seeming as if they are being deceiving or biased. The fact of the matter is that native advertising has allowed struggling newspapers and magazines to generate the revenue they have lost in the last several years of the digital boom. Even publishers such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, as well as social media power houses Facebook and Twitter are embrace native advertising.
Many are concerned that native advertising walks a fine line between responsible and irresponsible advertising and journalism. Since the essential objective of native advertising is to be engaging and blend in well with the page, it has quickly evolved into content that is increasingly difficult to distinguish from a publication’s general content. And that’s where the greatest concerns lie.
Below are a few of the questions that arise when talk of regulating native advertising takes place:
• Do readers understand that the content they are reading is sponsored content?
• Should all native ads be labeled? If so, what are the parameters of the labeling?
• Should publishers take any responsibility for the content that appears in their need native advertising?
• How do you regulate native ads that are distributed through programmatic buying?
• Who is held legally responsible for irresponsible ads—the sponsor, the publisher, or the media buyer?
The US Federal Trade Commission has already initiated discussions to develop guidelines and regulations for native advertising. In December 2013 they held and open meeting titled “Blurred Lines: Advertising or Content?” to discuss concerns associated with the potential legal risk of native advertising and some ways to regulate the format.
Until official regulations and guidelines have been established, the IAB has published a set of native advertising best practices to help promote responsible advertising.
“Marketers are already embracing native strategies and publishers are looking for a roadmap that will allow them to take full advantage of the trend,” said Peter Minnium, Head of Brand Initiatives at IAB. “The more we can define and structure the framework surrounding native advertising, the easier we will make it for brands to easily incorporate it into their ad buys.”
Those interested in reviewing the complete Native Advertising Playbook can download the document now from IAB is available for download here.