Interactive Advertising Bureau's New Native Advertising Playbook, How Will It Be Received?

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AdNation News interviews Peter Minnium, Head of Brand Initiatives at IAB on Native Advertising and the IAB's newly published Native Advertising Playbook.

Six core questions that determine the quality of different types of native ads is a useful tool so publishers and advertisers can openly discuss what they want to accomplish.

In response to the growing interest and use of native advertising, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) released the "IAB Native Advertising Playbook," a document that was created by a 100-member task force. Peter Minnium, Head of Brand Initiatives at IAB explains to AdNation News that IAB and the Task Force do not seek to control or limit the use of native advertising. "The Playbook is a tool," says Minnium, "giving the market the tools they need to develop native advertising to its full potential." He explains that the task force has made four important accomplishments as a part of creating the Playbook: the recognition that people in the industry aspire to innovate native advertising, the classification of six types of native ads, the creation of six dimensions to describe the qualities and functions of native ads, and the agreement that disclosure and transparency is necessary to ensure consumers' trust.

Native advertising became especially popular with the rise of digital interfaces, and Minnium believes it will continue to develop as more technology and digital space becomes available. It can be integrated with digital so easily because native advertising lacks what Minnium calls an "ad-ghetto." Consumers who search for pizza on any search engine, for example, would not be shocked to find a "sponsored link" or "ads related to pizza" at the top of their search results. In fact, these native ads may be useful. Both the industry and consumers are slowly accepting ads as part of the everyday content stream. Where advertisers and publishers need to be careful is how "native" an ad is, not wanting to discourage consumers with seemingly informative content only to discover an unwanted sponsored message. 

Minnium says the six core questions that determine the quality of different types of native ads is a useful tool so publishers and advertisers can openly discuss what they want to accomplish. It is a kind of guide that should be "laminated and hung on bulletin boards," he says. The six qualifiers arose from a discussion about how to define a native ad compared to traditional ads, but the six definitions became dimensions instead. The more dimensions a native ad follows, the more native it appears to the consumer. First, "[the ad] must look like the content around it," Minnium says. Second, the ad should function like the content around it, stories among stories, videos among videos. Third, the ad should link to the site for which it is published, rather than taking a consumer to its own website. Fourth, native ads should be narrowly targeted to reach specific demographics rather than published across a wide scope of possible consumers who might not be interested. Fifth, native ads should be measured by views or "likes" since they are a tool for top-of-the-funnel brand engagement. Lastly, disclosure is, perhaps, most important. Minnium quotes the Playbook itself, saying, "regardless of context, a reasonable consumer should be able to distinguish between what is paid advertising versus what is publisher editorial content."
Not all native ads will follow all of these qualifications. Some types of ads, such as Recommendation Widgets, often link to other sites rather than keep the consumer on the publication's site. This does not disqualify Recommendation Widgets as native, but rather allows publishers and advertisers to recognize how well this type of native ad may fit among the publisher's content. With these qualifiers, everyone in the industry now has a way to openly discuss their brand and communication objectives. As the playbook states, "Native is in the eye of the beholder." 

Minnium is optimistic about the future of native advertising, and thinks there is great potential, but will require change, and in some ways, it already has. "Agencies are going to public relations firms. Third party organizations are springing up to bring journalistic type stories, and some agencies are trying to curate and create in-house," explains Minnium. Ads and content were once completely separate, but their blending opens up consumers to getting much more meaningful content. Minnium foresees a few challenges the industry will have to face. "It's a hurdle to consistently create content that is native. We have not seen that done at scale yet," he says. Furthermore, as the industry changes, professionals will have to balance the need to standardize how we use and create native ads and also allowing for innovation. Finally, Minnium says that, just like struggles with digital advertising, the industry will have to find a way to measure the success of native advertising. Right now, "we have nothing beyond impressions and clicks," he says. "We won't be able to justify [native ads] without metrics of ad effectiveness. This is still in the works."

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is comprised of more than 500 leading media and technology companies that are responsible for selling 86% of online advertising in the United States. On behalf of its members, the IAB is dedicated to the growth of the interactive advertising marketplace, of interactive’s share of total marketing spend, and of its members’ share of total marketing spend. The IAB educates marketers, agencies, media companies and the wider business community about the value of interactive advertising. Working with its member companies, the IAB evaluates and recommends standards and practices and fields critical research on interactive advertising. Founded in 1996, the IAB is headquartered in New York City with a Public Policy office in Washington, D.C.

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