You may have been hearing about native ads recently. As online advertising formats evolve, it is our responsibility at Adblock Plus to understand them and define when these new formats should be blocked, and if and when they can be classified as Acceptable Ads. So we are calling upon you in our community to take part in this discussion.
For context, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) convened the Native Advertising Task Force and on Dec. 4, 2013 they published their results in the “IAB Native Advertising Playbook.” The playbook does not define native ads but offers a framework for identifying native advertising, identifying six ad formats currently being served as “native”:
- In-feed units
- Paid search units
- Recommendation widgets
- Promoted listings
- IAB standard ads with “native” element units
- Form – How does the ad fit with the overall page design? Is it in the viewer’s activity stream or not in-stream?
- Function – Does the ad function like the other elements on the page in which it is placed? Does it deliver the same type of content experience (e.g., a video on a video page or story among stories) or is it different?
- Integration – How well do the ad unit’s behaviors match those of the surrounding content? Are they the same, e.g., linking to an on-site story page, or are new ones introduced?
- Buying & Targeting – Is the ad placement guaranteed on a specific page, section, or site, or will it be delivered across a network of sites? What type of targeting is available?
- Measurement – What metrics are typically used to judge success? Are marketers more likely to use top-of-the-funnel brand engagement metrics (e.g., views, likes, shares, time spent) or bottom funnel ones (e.g., sale, download, data capture, register, etc.)?
- Disclosure – How is this ad product identified as such?
If the Acceptable Ads initiative is to remain useful and fair, it must adjust its criteria as ads evolve. From discussions that ABP has had with journalists, and from conversations with ad industry representatives we’ve met recently at AdTech New York and Dmexco in Cologne, it is clear that native ads is the hot topic in online advertising.
We are on record as saying that native ads present both positive and negative signals: on the positive side, native ads are a reaction against ad intrusiveness; on the negative side, we are concerned that seamless integration of advertising within editorial content may blur what we think should be a clearly distinguishable line between the two types of content.
Now it is time to consider updating our Acceptable Ads evaluative framework to acknowledge native ads and define any new elements introduced through native advertising that might meet the Acceptable Ads criteria. We need an Acceptable Native Ads definition, as it were, and we want your input.
Having this conversation does not mean that native ads will be acceptable (even if some kinds, like paid search results, already are). This discussion is to get our community truly involved; we have not talked a lot internally about this, so we go at it with open minds and look forward to your opinions.
After a month or two we will come to a conclusion on whether or how we incorporate native ad elements into our criteria for Acceptable Ads, and we will take all the relevant results here into those considerations.
A starting point for discussion
Let’s first consider in-feed ads. In our current criteria ads that disrupt reading flow are not acceptable; however, there are differing opinions when it comes to what “reading flow” means. For instance, I am personally annoyed when I’m reading an article and an ad is directly between two paragraphs. On the other hand, I don’t mind a “square” of clearly marked sponsored content on a homepage, say those on Huffington Post.
One possibility would be to say that one-dimensional pages cannot have an ad in the middle of content; but a two- or multiple-dimensional page (like Huffington Post) can. I can then avoid the ads, and I only have to read an entire ad (or article) after clicking. A second restriction might be that in-feed ads are OK so long as they do not take over 10 percent of a page’s space.