Native has become a hot topic in the advertising marketplace, but for the practice to flourish further, it needs consensus on definitions and structure. In response, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB US) and its Native Advertising Task Force has released the “IAB Native Advertising Playbook” to serve as a consistent framework for the discussion surrounding native advertising, identifying it as both an aspiration to seamlessly integrate brand messaging into consumers’ content experiences, as well as a practical suite of ad products that successfully meet that objective. In addition to the task force, senior-level buy-side executives were tapped for their expert counsel on what advertisers need to consider before they add native elements into their digital marketing mix. The IAB US Public Policy Council was also consulted for the playbook’s recommendations on sponsorship disclosures.
The playbook highlights six core interactive ad formats that are currently being used within the native advertising landscape:
- In-feed units
- Paid search units
- Recommendation widgets
- Promoted listings
- IAB standard ads with “native” element units
When evaluating native advertising options, the playbook suggests that marketers address six key marketplace considerations to ensure that a unit will meet their brand objectives:
- Form – How does the ad fit with the overall page design? Is it in the viewer’s activity stream or not in-stream?
- Function – Does the ad function like the other elements on the page in which it is placed? Does it deliver the same type of content experience (e.g., a video on a video page or story among stories) or is it different?
- Integration – How well do the ad unit’s behaviors match those of the surrounding content? Are they the same, e.g., linking to an on-site story page, or are new ones introduced?
- Buying & Targeting – Is the ad placement guaranteed on a specific page, section, or site, or will it be delivered across a network of sites? What type of targeting is available?
- Measurement – What metrics are typically used to judge success? Are marketers more likely to use top-of-the-funnel brand engagement metrics (e.g., views, likes, shares, time spent) or bottom funnel ones (e.g., sale, download, data capture, register, etc.)?
- Disclosure – How is this ad product identified as such?
As it relates to disclosure, the playbook provides overarching principles which ensure, regardless of context, that a consumer will be able to distinguish between what is paid advertising versus what is publisher editorial content. In addition, the paper identifies current model implementations for each ad unit, with the most commonly used native ad disclosure language, placement of that language, and any other cues to the consumer.
“I firmly believe that advertising on the modern internet will be defined by meaningful content, not standard ads. There’s a movement happening, away from interruptive, traditional ads, and towards thoughtful brand stories — and native ads are the most potent and effective distribution strategy for content-based advertising,” said Dan Greenberg, Founder and CEO, Sharethrough, and Co-Chair, IAB US Native Advertising Task Force. “The IAB framework is the first step in standardizing a set of new native ad formats and represents a milestone for the movement. For advertisers, native, content-based advertising is the translation layer between the modern internet and traditional TV.”
Moving forward, IAB Belgium is planning a Think conference on Native Advertising on 5 June 2014 in Brussels, which will take a deeper dive into areas such as Measurement, Ethics & Disclosure and Consumer Attitudes & Behavior.