OTA reveals that 71% of native adverts are failing transparency results

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The Online Trust Alliance (OTA) has just revealed the results of its Native Advertising Assessment, which analysed native ads across the top 100 news websites. It found that 71% received failing scores for disclosure, delineation and discoverability, meaning that consumers could easily distinguish between ad and editorial. Native ads are designed to appear to look like editorial content.

Example of a trustworthy native ad

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Source: otalliance.org

It’s a fast growing format within the ad industry with ad spend in the US to reach $8.8bn by 2018. Growth is mostly driven by brands and publishers who are looking for more innovative advertising formats that work better on mobile devices.

Craig Spiezle, Executive Director, Online Trust Alliance, says:

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“While native ads without proper disclosures may yield short term monetary goals, they risk marginalizing the long-term value of advertising and the reputation of sites where they are served. Consumers who experience annoyance, confusion and misinterpretation in native advertising, combined with increasing security and privacy issues will likely turn to using ad blockers. The result is nobody wins since sites and ad networks will lose revenue and consumers will miss out on content that is relevant to them.”

69% of sites audited showed one or more native ads. Of those, just 9% received a top trust score from OTA for their transparency standard. 20% of native ads were in need of improvement and a whole 71% failed.

The research further highlighted that advertisers use inconsistent phrases across their ads, with up to 43 different phrases being used to signal a native ad and some sites varying phrases from day to day.

Example of a non-trustworthy native ad

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Source: otalliance.org

OTA says that phrases such as “ad” and “paid” as well as “sponsored by” or “brought to you by” should be used instead of “powered by” or “special coverage”.

Jason Kint, CEO, Digital Content Next, adds:

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“Native advertising has the potential to provide valuable content to consumers, new revenue for publishers and greater relevancy for advertisers. The principles and checklist developed by OTA are a positive and constructive step as the industry experiments with terms and strategies to appropriately label native advertising. We are pleased to see that DCN members continue to lead by example in protecting consumer trust.”

In order to help native advertisers meet its guidelines, the OTA has created a native advertising checklist, based on interviews with key stakeholders, publishers and industry trade groups, as well as the Federal Trade Commission:

  1. Use OTA recommended disclosure terminology, refraining from creating unique and proprietary terms (see Appendix A in the report).
  2. If the disclosure term is pre-populated by third parties, require they comply with recommended terminology and site branding requirements.
  3. Make disclosures clear and conspicuous, maximizing discoverability and readability.
  4. Be consistent. Use the same disclosures in the same positions on the same site over time.
  5. Address readability across screens. Use/adapt disclosures for different devices, including mobile.
  6. Keep disclosure size readable for all ages. It is recommended that the disclosure text be no more than 2 points smaller than surrounding copy.
  7. Use recognized design standards, type styles, colors and adequate contrast for visibility. Use of all bold type and compressed letter spacing decreases readability.
  8. Identify consumer-facing sponsoring brands, not just the content service in the disclosure.
  9. Use color brand logos as applicable.
  10. Review the use of supplemental co-branding of content providers and the impact on the user experience. Data suggests the inclusion of added co-branding may distract from providing consumers clear and intuitive disclosures.
  11. Delineate native units from page content through the use of rules (a horizontal line or border) and/or shading.
  12. Review compliance with accessibility requirements, including but not limited to adding alternative text descriptors for all images served.