Defining native ads

Inclusion proposals for "acceptable ads" list are discussed here. New topics cannot be created, constructive comments are welcome, flaming will be removed.

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Defining native ads

Postby Ben » Thu Dec 12, 2013 3:42 pm

Proposed community discussion: Agreeing upon a definition of Acceptable Native Ads
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
  • Custom
Additionally, the playbook recommends that marketers take six considerations into mind when deciding what is native and what is not:

  • 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?

Why is this discussion proposed?
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.
Ben
ABP Comms/Ops Manager
 
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Re: Defining native ads

Postby skysam » Thu Dec 12, 2013 5:07 pm

Ben wrote: 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.
.


Isn't the add between the paragraphs always a square?
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Re: Defining native ads

Postby Ben » Fri Dec 13, 2013 4:13 pm

skysam wrote:
Ben wrote: 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.
.


Isn't the add between the paragraphs always a square?


Yes, but in that case it would be a single-column page. I meant that the "squares" on multi-column pages don't annoy me, like on Huffington Post -- which basically has 3 columns.
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Re: Defining native ads

Postby Guest » Sat Dec 14, 2013 12:13 am

Ben wrote: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.


IMHO, native ads are more a reaction to ad blindness than a nod to the worries behind ad intrusiveness. The intermingling of germane content with paid content should concern everyone. Even highly relevant advertising copy seems like it should stand on it's own, distinguishable from the site's content, lest users begin to question the integrity of the publisher. That's not meant to be unfair to publishers who probably face the hardest decisions compared to users (who just want content) or advertisers (who just want ROI), but personally I become immediately skeptical of content providers who try to trick me into clicking through to someone that pays them.

That all said, the focus should be on how distinguishable paid content is compared to publisher content. Presumably publishers are attempting to build a reputation around their information niche & it would be in their best interests to ensure users can distinguish their "voice" from that of advertisers. But as I said, publishers (particularly smaller ones) probably have hard decisions to make when trying to sustain themselves. So whether you can get buy in is an open question.

My point is any unit that intermingles publisher & paid content should include functionality to disable the paid content by unit. Maybe this is an X with a "Remove Paid Content" tool tip, maybe it's a little widget setting wheel to solicit a why from the user, and I'm sure there are lots of ways to go about it for different units. Making paid content that fits nicely into a site is all well and good, but the expectation should be set that users have a right to know when they're presented something because the publisher has been paid.
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Re: Defining native ads

Postby tetch » Sat Dec 14, 2013 12:19 am

Also, I meant to be logged in when I posted that. :oops:
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Re: Defining native ads

Postby Jobp » Thu Jan 23, 2014 11:35 am

To revamp this discussion again, I'd like to contribute my two cents.

The playbook does not define native ads but offers a framework for identifying native advertising


I think this captures the main point I'd like to make. Because the entire native ad discussion is so intangible and ambiguous -even for industry leaders- I think what we're doing here is nearly impossible. From my point of view, native ads should be treated on a case-by-case basis, at least for now. When in a few months / year an accepted definition or ad arises, we can then discuss on what we deem Acceptable and what not.


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.


First, I think we'll make it too difficult for everyone out there. I think we should just make the distinction between an actual reading text (e.g. full article), and presentations of snippets linking to content (e.g. lists, feeds). No interruption whatsoever should be allowed for the former (e.g. including ads under the title, before the first paragraph), for the latter I don't mind that much, as long as I can see whether it is an actual ad.

Second, I think the idea of trying to find hard, objective criteria is ambitious, but might be too difficult. There are too many variables that can make ads unacceptable: context, adtype, borders, padding, labeling, placement, fonts and the page itself. From my point of view, to start working with such objective criteria as the one- or two-dimensional pages will be impossible. Especially since native ads aren't defined yet.

Sorry Bennie :twisted:
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