How do you approach disclosure in native advertising?


When creating a sponsored content program, one of the biggest challenges for publishers is agreeing on what constitutes the right amount of disclosure for their native advertising. Leaders in publishing go back and forth with their staff, pouring over aggregate data – like that found in our refreshed benchmarks – and determine exactly how to label their sponsored content as one of the final pieces of this modern media challenge.

Some of these leaders from Forbes, ALM, and the Huffington Post spoke to Polar about how they approach disclosure in native ads.

Claire Robinson – Senior Director, Brand Media Production, Forbes

"Since day one, all Forbes parties have been in agreement on clear disclosure. That’s important out of respect to the visitor, and to protect the integrity of the marketer and the Forbes brand itself.

"BrandVoice content clearly features brand labeling at the top of the page, as in NetAppVoice. A note at the top of each page also gives a definition of the platform under the heading “Connecting marketers to the Forbes audience. What is this?”and provides a dropdown that features a more in-depth description.  Bylines showcase the company name. The BrandVoice label also travels before headlines across the site and within Forbes social feeds.

"Externally, we closely monitor the activity of key industry groups such as the FTC and IAB. Mark Howard, our Chief Revenue Officer, is on the IAB’s Native Advertising Task Force. Internally, the business team collaborates with the product development team and legal counsel for all product-related decisions."

David Saabye – Vice President of Digital, ALM

"A “little” which is clearly defined goes a long way. If you put a radioactive sign on a placement with blinking neon lights, you do something that makes it really stand out. It gives people a real reason to pause and wonder: Why is this fenced off, why does this have the emergency tape, “do-not-cross” line wrapped around it.

"If you make it look like it’s seamless and you’re not embarrassed by the content or ashamed of it – and we’re not, otherwise we wouldn’t have it on our publication sites – if you make it look like a natural part of your product or publication but provide a visible level of identification, the readers are fine. In fact they engage with it and continue to re-engage with it.

"When you make it stand out like a sore thumb, people will treat it like a sore thumb. Readers will shy away from it and advertisers will question the value of it. If you make it look like its completely part of your publication without any identification whatsoever then there’s also an introduction of mistrust with your readers. A nominal amount; an appropriate identification such as simple highlighting, identifying the content as paid-for, but making it look natural is good for the time being."

Tessa Gould – formerSenior Director of Native Advertising, HuffPost Partner Studio

"When I arrived at HuffPost there were already standards in place; specifically, sponsored content was disclosed via a pill that read “Sponsored Feature”. During my first few months on the job, we did a pretty thorough market assessment which included a deep-dive on labeling and disclosure; we examined how it was being handled at other publishers, large and small, as well as what industry bodies were recommending, and best practices put forward by industry commentators and academics. We distilled these findings and eventually presented them to the Huffington Post editorial team and worked with them to create a set of standards we thought would best inform readers and clearly delineate our native content from editorial. That was a huge concern for the managing editors and our editorial standards team.

"It was also important from a design perspective that it jived with the overall look and feel of our site. Today our labelling (Presented by Brand X) appears both on the native storytelling unit (otherwise known as the promo unit) which you would see you before you click on the content, but also on the actual article page, which you see after you click."

Want to read more from native advertising's new leaders? Head to our Maverick's page or contact us to see how Polar can help you establish an industry best sponsored content program.