The Dos and Don’ts of Native Advertising

Sarah McInerney

Head of Content

Sarah has almost three decades of experience in crafting compelling, engaging content specifically designed to boost sales and enhance brand loyalty. She’s also an expert in developing unique tone of voice that helps brands connect with their audiences. Her marketing and client service background has given Sarah a natural understanding of how to write content that makes readers take action. Whether it’s signing up to a mailing list, making an enquiry or donation or clicking the buy button, Sarah knows precisely how to convert with words. Pen down, Sarah is a proud member of the Essex Wildlife Trust and spends most of her free time enjoying inspiring walks through her local woodland and nature reserves, admiring everything that flaps, flutters and flowers.

Native advertising is taking the marketing world by storm and although it got off to a slightly sketchy start two or three years ago, it has to be one of the most popular ways these days for brands to engage with their audiences online.

What is native advertising?

To call it by its technical name, ‘contextually targeted branded content’, native advertising is purposely designed to fit in with its online environments. This gives readers a visually stable experience when browsing content.

Have you noticed how these days, paid-for search engine ads are designed to look just like organic results? And how it can sometimes be tricky to work out which Twitter or Facebook posts are adverts, and which are from real people? These are examples of native advertisements. You have probably also come across banner adverts within news content. They are written in the same style as the main article copy and use similar imagery. But a click will take you away to an advertising page.

You will also see native advertising in online videos, and in advertorials both online and offline.

native adverts are purposely designed to fit in with their online environments

Native adverts are purposely designed to fit in with their online environments.

What are the benefits of native advertising?

Native advertising aims to position a brand image in the mind, or call a reader to action. As consumers, we face a plethora of advertisements on a daily basis, and pretty much all of us can tell an advert from miles away, even without our specs on. We are naturally sceptical about adverts, and will rarely believe what we read.

That’s where native advertising becomes so beneficial. Because it melts into the content around it, the marketing messages are masked. Because they are perceived as ‘trusted unbiased content’, the ads will have a far greater likelihood of being read or watched, and there will be a good chance that the trust placed in the publisher will imprint onto the brand.

What are the official rules on native advertising?

In light of the growing popularity of native advertising, the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) have issued advice on how to make sure native adverts do not breach their advertising Code by confusing consumers as to the source of the content. In other words, native adverts must remain identifiable as such, and must not be confused with editorial content.

CAP has advised that native adverts should be clearly labelled as advertisements. They reported on two cases on which the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently ruled after there were complaints that advertorials on the Telegraph and Buzzfeed websites were not obviously identifiable as adverts. Both complaints were upheld by the ASA on the grounds that they were not sufficiently clearly distinguishable from the editorial content.

Native adverts must remain identifiable as such, and must not be confused with editorial content.

Native adverts must remain identifiable as such, and must not be confused with editorial content.

Many advertisers believe that adding ‘Sponsored’ or ‘In Association With’ at the top of their native content is sufficient to comply with the advertising rules, but this is not the case. According to the ASA Council, such labels are not sufficient to distinguish them as marketing. The General Media Panel (GMP) has made the suggestion that phrases such as ‘Paid for ad’ or ‘ad link’ are likely to be deemed acceptable. The terms are yet to be ruled on by the ASA Council, but the recommendation is to use this type of obvious wording.

More information

If you are a native brand advertiser, or are considering adding native advertising to your marketing strategy, you will need to ensure you are aware of the rules, and how to comply with them.

You can read CAP’s advice here, and if you’re interested to read more around the subject, this opinion piece on native advertising by ASA chief executive Guy Parker could prove thought-provoking.

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