When will native advertising be illegal?

"Sponsored Post" label: clarity doesn't click

05.05.2015Johannes Haupt3 comments

In the case of native advertising, no definitive wording for labeling has yet been established. A combined eye-tracking study plus questioning now showed: An advertising article can only be recognized as such with clear labeling, but at the cost of drastically poorer performance.

Labels: From "Advertisement" to "Brand Publisher"

"Labeling" at Buzzfeed

Native ads currently have very different names. Slate speaks of "sponsored content", the New York Times speaks of "paid posts" (and publishes such articles in a separate category). At Huffington Post, on the other hand, they speak of "Presented by:". Buzzfeed Germany also says "Presented by:" in the feed. In Buzzfeed articles themselves, the advertising character can only be recognized by the fact that the article comes from a "brand publisher".

In Germany, labeling as "sponsored post" (for example at t3n) is largely common, the tech blog Mobilegeeks is a big exception with its naming of native ads as "advertising".

Drastically lower awareness for "Ad" labels

But how does the type of labeling affect the performance of native advertising campaigns? Native ads specialist TripleLift wanted to find out more and had an eye tracking study and survey carried out, the results of which are summarized in the specialist blog Digiday. As part of the study, 208 Americans each saw the same ad with five different labels.

The results speak for themselves. According to an eye-tracking analysis, a promotional article labeled "Advertising" was seen by only 23 percent of all study participants, while a "Presented by" label attracted the attention of 39 percent of the participants.

In a subsequent survey, participants also said they would reject "advertising" and "promoted by" labels, while respondents said that labels such as "advertising" and "sponsored by" were most likely to promote native ads make them recognizable as such. The last places here were "presented by" and "highlighted by".

In the eyes of most participants, "Advertisement" is also a suitable identifier, while phrases such as "Branded Content" or "Featured Partner" lead to (intended) ambiguity.

66 percent of the study participants would like native advertising to be clearly labeled, only 13 percent do not need such a label for themselves. Such clear labeling also seems to be urgently needed: Regardless of the label, 62 percent of the study participants stated that they were not aware that they were looking at an advertisement.

Universal labeling is needed

The study's chief marketing officer, TripleLift, said of the results that the advertising industry must work on "universal labeling" in view of the current consumer confusion. Nonetheless, users shouldn't be frightened off with overly "offensive" wording. You have to find the right balance between publisher, advertiser and user.

Digiday also obtained a statement from the native advertising agency Contently on the study results. Their boss explained that instead of advertising labeling in the page header, a corresponding reference could also be made in the content itself. In addition, you could make headings or labels different colors.

Basically, in the opinion of Contently, it should also be in the interests of the advertiser to be recognizable. Because: "If people can't identify native ads as sponsored content, then what the hell is the point of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to run these things on publishers' sites?" If the advertiser is not visible on the third-party site, you can publish the expensive content on your own channel and buy traffic for a fraction of the cost, for example via Facebook or Outbrain.

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