UK’s AOP on transparency in native advertising

Those recommendations were met with support from other leading UK industry bodies, including ISBA, the CMA, and the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) who followed up with a much more positive report of their own showing that 59 per cent of consumers currently find native to be interesting and informative.

It’s no secret that native advertising has come under greater scrutiny in recent months. Not least because the industry is still getting to grips with exactly what native is and what it can do for publishers and brands. The haziness surrounding the sector is not helped by the blurred lines that native creates between editorial and advertising. Where programmatic has prospered under the user-friendly strap line of ‘the right ad, for the right person, at the right time’, native is perceived as providing less clarity. 

Yet the positive aspects of the platform cannot be ignored: for brands, for publishers and for consumers alike. Earlier this month Forbes and Conde Nast gave us an insight into their positive experiences of native, citing some real world examples. So just how does the publishing industry view the rise of native? And how has it reacted to claims that greater transparency is needed? Jamie Gavin spoke to Tim Cain, managing director for the UK Association of Online Publishers, to find out. 

The findings from the recent AOP native advertising report show some positive results – how important is native becoming to the publisher armoury in the UK?  

Very important. The latest AOP Census tells us that it is a key revenue initiative for 63 per cent of publishers compared to 43 per cent last year. It is increasingly seen as a valuable, contextual, high impact format within premium content environments

You’re recommending that native should be ‘almost indistinguishable’ from editorial – is there a danger that blurring these lines could compromise editorial integrity?

We’re suggesting that signposting is vital, as the IAB Guidelines show you need to be clear and transparent so the audience do not feel misled or duped. What we’re saying is that under that labelling, the style should reflect the media brand so that it fits seamlessly into the reader’s expectations and is not inconsistent with the editorial values of the brand

Is native advertising seen as being less of a direct response and more of a reputational/awareness exercise for brands advertising online? 

It is appropriate for discovery – introducing a brand, building familiarity and rapport and encouraging purchase. It really applies to all stages of the purchase funnel, but it is more consistent with brand development than direct response. In fact we found that a hard sell element such as a ” buy now” or “get 50 per cent off” are perceived negatively and as a thinly veiled attempt to dress up pure advertising. 

Finally, how does native sit with the recent explosion in programmatic advertising? Are these two sides of the coin destined to be at odds with one another or are we likely to see more programmatic native coming through in the future? 

In purist terms we would see native as a bespoke creation between a publisher and an advertiser reflecting that media brand’s unique environment. That is at odds with programmatic, but branded content can undoubtedly be delivered programmatically, the big question is does it deliver with the same impact across different contexts.

More about AOP’s native advertising study.

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