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4 questions on native: With IAB UK

Jan 29, 2016

In this blog post, one of native advertising's prominent voices shares her opinion on four pressing matters. Today's author: Clare O'Brien from Internet Advertising Bureau UK. 

1. What is the biggest challenge regarding native advertising – and how do we overcome it?

The sheer breadth of what can be considered content & native advertising. Rebecca Lieb once said that content is the atomic particle of marketing… It’s a great metaphor… particularly applied to all forms of marketing communication output because every email, buy-button, house journal, corporate video, data capture form, TV ad, image, press release, web page, app function and so on ad infinitum, is indeed ‘content’. And so I’d say the single biggest challenge will always be our understandable need for definitions when advertisers and publishers are all looking for scale. We simply don’t know how to apply ad formats or publisher / advertiser partnerships to some of these content ‘objects’ yet.

How do we overcome it? Well perhaps we don’t. Maybe we should stop trying to define the genre and instead focus on making it and digital work for advertisers. What we’ve not tackled well so far is understanding that unless the content served up to people meets their need in that moment then it won’t get their attention. I don’t think we’re close yet.

2. Are ad blockers able to find and block native advertising?

This isn’t as easy as a simple yes or no answer – because the breadth of the things that can be considered Native and content-based advertising is so broad.

Ad blocking works by recognising third party server calls. For example, if you have a area of your CMS with a native distribution ad container but which is pulling in content (content objects) from the third party ad platform’s server then it may stay empty if the content is identified as being on a particular ad blocker’s black list.

But sponsored or ad-funded partnership content where the branding is the advertiser’s logo served from the media owner’s local CMS should not be blocked by an ad blocker.

It’s not black and white though. Different ad blockers’ software identifies different blacklisted third party sources – and indeed, whitelisted sources. For instance, ad blocker A may block content x, but ad blocker B may recognize some other content from source y and block that instead.

And because the content isn’t in a native distribution format unit doesn’t necessarily prevent it from being blocked. There’s a risk that content makers building pages don’t always know what’s going to make it through to the screen. For example, a publisher may choose to cache content that isn’t updated frequently and an ad blocker may identify some cached content to be blocked.

What’s important to bear in mind is that the situation is fluid. Ad blockers act as a filter at browser level but the people behind ad blockers are the ones who decide what content, or form of content, is to be blocked – and this changes continually. It’s a totally fluid situation and do we trust those people to set rules that are fair? White lists and black lists are constantly updated – and sometimes on a whim.

What may have started out as an idealistic objective to make the web a better place has rapidly turned to a commercial business model. Many publishers are now paying ad blockers not to block their content. The space is now a business model.

3. How does the rapid spread of adblockers affect native advertising?

Potentially it puts it in the position of content being inconsistently delivered. Ad blockers will also prevent some third party tracking pixels and this means that advertisers will be reliant on publishers’ figures. Not that all third party content gets blocked but the threat is now that someone else is controlling some of the content that gets through or not.

4. How does adblockers affect YOUR work with native advertising?

The key thing is to be aware of what is happening in the marketplace. It can affect discrepancy management and so you may not always be in control of this either. Keep informed, make sure your colleagues and clients are informed. The only constant about ad blocking is that the goal posts shift day to day.

About the author

Clare O’Brien is the Senior Industry Programmes Manager at the IAB UK and a marketing and communications specialist with a background in media. For the last 15 years, she has focused on developing digital content frameworks. At the IAB she heads Industry initiatives for the Online Performance and Content & Native Councils.

Story by Clare O'Brien

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