Content marketing and its dodgy cousin native advertising are big areas of focus for brands and media owners at present. And they're also big areas of confusion, with no set rules on disclosure and very little data for this market. The IAB NZ's Standards & Guidelines Council is aiming to change that and has set out on a mission to gauge the level of activity, build a resource on the topic and help educate and showcase what is currently being offered in New Zealand.
Toni Knowles, general manager of Vena and chair of the IAB’s Standards & Guidelines Council, says the current IAB NZ/PWC interactive ad spend report doesn’t cater for native/content advertising separately and it is counted as part of the total display number (in the last round of figures display accounted for 21 percent of the local interactive advertising market). But she says this will be addressed in the next iteration, which will be completed this year.
- Check out our in-depth report on native advertising here.
She hopes this project, which is set to take around four months to complete, will eventually help cater for it in the spend report.
Whether you see native advertising as a con or a quid pro quo, it's here to stay and growing in popularity. As a guide, Knowles points to the UK, which does count native/content separately. That accounted for 22 percent of the £509 million display category.
The US doesn’t account for this category separately, but a recent report by the Association of National Advertisers showed some interesting trends, with 58 percent of respondents saying their company used native advertising during the past year and budgets had increased for 55 percent of respondents. This year, 63 percent of respondents expected to increase budgets allocated to native advertising. But it’s still a tiny fraction of overall spend, and despite the increases, native accounted for five percent or less of the total marketing budget for 68 percent of respondents.
Two-thirds of respondents in the ANA survey agreed that native advertising needs clear disclosure that it is indeed advertising, whereas 13 percent felt that such disclosure was not needed. But Knowles says being a relatively new interactive category (and a relatively old category in general when you consider advertorials or reading notes, as they were once called), "everyone is finding their own way to a certain extent".
"Publishers are certainly keen to respect the user and audience experience with these formats, so there are various forms of disclosure, perhaps looking to overseas examples. We are aiming to provide a bit more clarity and guidelines/best practice here. I hope this can help."
She says it is aiming to create some further content and discussion around this topic, perhaps through a series of interviews with industry leaders.
“Native advertising as a concept and for brands and advertisers to connect with target audiences in an unobtrusive way to drive engagement and results is very compelling, and is seeing huge growth globally," says Adrian Pickstock, chief executive of IAB NZ. "It is in our industry’s interests to have a clear path at the onset."
The ASA's Hilary Souter also backs the project, and it conducted a review of its own on social media endorsements a few years back, although while it promoted the idea of using the #ad hashtag, it seems to be mostly used ironically.
One reason native advertising is on the rise is because, as MBM's Matt Bale said in a feature in NZ Marketing mag, consumers have become conditioned to not clicking on banner ads—and, with the swift rise of ad-blocking software, many have found a way to avoid them completely (interestingly, in a recent study by Adobe and PageFair, static banner ads were one of the formats that didn't bother people that much, along with skippable pre-rolls). So, as ads start to camouflage themselves in the content streams of sites and as some publishers and platforms seek clicks at any cost, he believes there’s a possibility they might eventually become wary of clicking on content as well.
“Content is an interesting space for brands and audiences alike and native is a delivery mechanism for it. But I do worry about the rush for people to think of short term gaming and hoodwinking people. In the long term, jeopardising reader trust is not in anyone’s best interests. No-one wins.”
Someone has to be winning at the moment with native advertising gaining so much steam. Bale says there are probably marketing managers or publishers who can “put up a great graph showing all the traffic they drove”. Or a media agency saying ‘look how great our cost per click is’. Or a sponsored link platform that's making heaps of cash. But he says very few of them would be showing the massive bounce rates or the long term impact on the brand or the publisher of tricking people into clicking on an ad.