Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 59 seconds

Native Ads Viewed as Alternative to Being the Loudest

Virtually every web surfer has been jarred by loud obnoxious autoplay video advertising, but Google has recently taken action against the problem.

In the process, it has made native advertising a more attractive option for marketers. However, marketers need to keep in mind that native advertising is highly regulated and, by definition, needs to be high quality.

Google’s recently released Chrome 64, the newest version its web browser, includes ad blocking technology that prevents certain autoplay videos from starting, reports The Verge. Videos will start if sound isn’t played or if a user expresses interest in a clip.

Chrome joins Apple’s Safari in blocking videos and a host of other third-party ad blockers that have been growing increasingly popular as more individuals become frustrated with media campaigns that seek to get attention by being loud. In one study, four out of five individuals reported either closing a web browser or leaving a website due to obnoxious advertisements, reports ContentStandard. In another study, 80% of individuals reported having negative reactions to autoplay ads.

Marketers, of course, maintain that advertisements must provide value to viewers, but based on the above mentioned research, few consumers would claim that videos and pop up ads are helpful.

With that in mind, marketers are likely to increasingly embrace native advertising, which is content that is designed to look like news articles or other content provided by publishers. Such content can span a variety of topics depending on targeted audiences. Home product retailers, for example, can provide content on renovation projects or energy efficiency, while clothing companies may provide articles on fashion.

The challenge for marketers is to make the content meaningful rather than just something that shamelessly promotes a brand and encourages viewers to buy products. To that end, native advertising takes thoughtful work, including strong editorial skills and smart media placement.

Brands must also be careful to comply with regulations, including those by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC stipulates that native advertising must clearly be labeled as sponsored content. The regulator has been active in policing the policy and researching new methods to ensure that native content doesn’t mislead consumers.

At the end of 2017, the FTC released “Blurred Lines: An Exploration of Consumer Advertising Recognition in the Contexts of Search Engines and Native Advertising (PDF),” which is a 100-page report based on the regulator’s prior research.

The regulator took screenshots of native advertising from mobile devices and desktops and then modified the images according to existing rules to see if doing so made it easier for viewers to determine that the content was promotional. The changes increased the likelihood that viewers recognized the content as promotional by 10% to 45%.

In the past, the regulator has also sent warning letters to search engines companies to emphasize that native content must clearly be labeled as sponsored material.

Regulatory concerns are not the only thing brands needs to worry about. Indeed, reputation risk is an important consideration, with consumer advocacy groups frequently scrutinizing native advertising.

TruthInAdvertising.org is one such organization. It recently posted an article that maintains that publishers are pressured by brands to minimize notices that identify native content as advertisements.

Some publishers use ambiguous terms such as “partner content” or “Brought to you by” to disclose that content is promotional. The organization also reports that one study found that less than 10% of readers identified content labeled as “sponsored content” as advertising.

For brands, failing to properly identify native advertising as promotional can backfire when readers discover they have been tricked into reading something that appeared to be objective content.

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