Article

Tom Cella
Tom Cella 9 June 2015
Categories Content

Greater Transparency Needed Across Digital Advertising

Lines between owned & earned, advertising & content are increasingly blurring...

The role of content in the Digital Marketer’s toolkit is an increasingly important one – The explosion of digital channels largely the primary driver behind this phenomenon. But with the lines between owned & earned, advertising & content increasingly blurring, brands need to tread carefully in order to avoid alienating their audience.



Spend on native and content advertising in the UK reached £216 million in the first half of 2014, accounting for 21% of all display ad spend.

Oreo recently came under fire from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) following a campaign featuring two YouTube vloggers – Dan Howell & Phil Lester, (whose vlogs on YouTube have been viewed over 35 million times) because it wasn’t obvious during their videos that it was part of a campaign commissioned by Mondelez.

For millennials who have been brought up consuming content on demand, on a broad range of platforms – it is far harder to identify brand sponsored material from standard user – generated content.

A recent study carried out by the IAB found that the older generation were more able to distinguish between the two; intuitively it’s what they’ve been brought up on – people instinctively know that the BBC doesn’t advertise, or that a broadcast on ITV will contain ad breaks, for example. It used to be far simpler for consumers to know when brands were trying to sell them stuff.

We now live in a world of Instagram, Snapchat (recently valued at $15 billion), Vine and Facebook, which contain a combination of user – generated content, ads and branded content. Advertisers should be aware that advertising on these platforms could be seen as intrusive for the user, especially across social media which tends to be highly personal. Related to this is the proliferation of AdBlockers – the number of active global users of which increased by 70% between June 2013 and June 2014. This, it could be argued, shows that many people don’t see the link between advertising and the survival of their favourite content platforms like 40D and YouTube, instead seeing online advertising as an irritant.

“Trust is the most powerful driver of brand advocacy”

As such, the IAB have recently published guidelines for advertisers to ensure their native ads and content remain above board – these include visual cues such as labelling and clearly visible brand logos. The reality remains that if the origin of content is unclear, consumers are less likely to trust it.

There is clearly a value exchange at play – consumers need to feel they are gaining value from sponsored content that sits in the middle of their Facebook or Twitter feed. According to the IAB study, ads are more effective when they are obviously an ad, rather than attempts by brands to hide their message – as Oreo discovered.

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