IAB Releases Update to Content and Native Ad Guidelines

The growth in social media publishing, advertising and influencer marketing, and the ease of self-publishing have all given rise to the need for refreshed guidelines for the digital advertising industry.

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB UK) has released a new set of instructions to help foster good practices for transparency in content and native advertising.

When the IAB first published guidelines for digital advertisement in 2014, it focused on native ad formats, including in-feed and third party recommendation units. The second version, released in 2015, was more concerned with online content-based advertising. This latest iteration includes a previously-published protocol set for paid promotions in social media, and combines the 2014 and 2015 regulations with updates to both.

The reason for the refresher is the need for clear and practical steps that brand owners, publishers, and marketers can take to help identify content-based advertising. Influencer marketing, audio, photo, and video-based platforms in particular require a new level of transparency from digital marketers to indicate the presence of an advertisement.

This update comes on the heels of the IAB/PwC H1 Digital Ad Spend Study, which found that spending on native and content ads hit £563m in the first half of 2017. These ads included paid-for sponsorships, in-feed distribution, and advertisement features.

The new set guidelines are designed to help marketers meet the requirements of the CAP Code, the rule book for non-broadcast advertisements, sales promotions and direct marketing communications in the United Kingdom. These rules are enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and are supported by both the Association for Online Publishers (AOP) and the Content Marketing Association (CMA). 

So what do these new regulations entail, exactly?

Under 2017 update, content-based and native advertising must:

Immediately alert consumers that they are engaging with marketing content by providing visual or audio cues. These may present as logos and/or design features in a visual medium, such as specific fonts or shading, to differentiate the advertising content from the surrounding text. In purely audio formats, the brand must be verbally announced in some way as to distinguish it from the rest of the content.

Consider visibility and design disclosures across platforms and devices to ensure that the advertising text is clear and prominent in all formats.

Label, either visually or verbally, the commercial arrangement being presented. Use a clear descriptor to identify the content as marketing. One option where space is limited (e.g. in social media) is the label #ad.

Ensure the marketing content adheres to the Cap Code and all other relevant legislation.

“It’s essential when brands are using content and native advertising to reach their audiences that they understand the rules about disclosure, and how to comply with them in practice,” said Christie Dennehy-Neil, senior public policy Manager at the IAB. “Transparency is vital, not just because it’s required by the advertising rules, but because it is key to audience trust, which is so important for brands and anyone they partner with to create or publish advertising content.”

Resources for the specific guideline updates can be viewed here. To stay up to date on the latest digital advertising trends, visit CROWD. or send an email to hello@crowd.agency.