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Ensure your native ads are identifiable

The IPA is reminding its agencies to ensure that their native advertising complies with the CAP Code. The reminder has been issued in response to yesterday’s (18th June 2014) announcement that the ASA has upheld a complaint against a native ad by Outbrain that appeared at the foot of an article on the Independent’s website.


According to its own website, Outbrain is the “leading content discovery platform on the web”, distributing contextual ad content to third party websites. The ad in question appeared below a heading “You may also like these” and was one of several ads which featured alongside each other.  The complainant felt that the ad was not identifiable as such (in contravention of the transparency rule 2.1 of the CAP Code) and the ASA agreed, finding that the ad was also misleading. Details about the adjudication.

As a result of this adjudication, CAP has updated its online guidance on Contextually Targeted Branded Content. The note explains:

“Marketers seeking to innovate should be wary of integrating content to an extent that it is no longer identifiable as an ad.  If the impression given by its presentation means a marketing communication is not obviously identifiable, it is likely that a signpost will be necessary to ensure that it is recognisably marketing. For example, where content aggregators serve similar content to readers under a heading such as “from around the web”, or “you may also like these” and the advertisers have paid to be featured, labelling is likely to be necessary in order to make the nature of the links clear.”

With reference to yesterday’s Outbrain adjudication, the CAP note explains that the ASA “ruled that the heading “You may also like these" and the footer "Recommended by", was insufficient to ensure it was obvious to consumers that the links were marketing communications and the ad breached the Code.” To try and ensure that native ads are identifiable, the General Media Panel has suggested labelling such as “paid for ad”, “ad” or “ad link”. These are not mandatory, but recommendations to try and overcome the transparency issue.

The CAP note also points out that, for the purposes of the ruling, the ASA took the advertiser to be the company which provided the aggregated content (ie. Outbrain) and that in other scenarios the advertiser could be found to be the publisher and/or the company whose ad is served.

Richard Lindsay, IPA Legal Director, said: “This adjudication just reflects the continuing innovation of the ad industry. A few years ago, ads on Twitter hit the headlines for the same “transparency” reason. Native ads are just another form of advertising that will also have to comply with the transparency (and all other) rules. Whether the labelling options proposed by the General Media Panel are adopted by the industry is another matter, but so long as the ads are obviously identifiable as such, there should be no cause for complaint.”

Last updated 10/07/2014

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