The self-regulatory UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code) and the statutory Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) 2008 exist to ensure fair and appropriate advertising practices in the UK market. The CPRs are underpinned by EU-wide legislation and the provisions they contain should be broadly consistent throughout the EU, but country-specific resources should be consulted to confirm as these can differ at national level.
The CAP Code – the advertising industry’s mandatory code for non-broadcast marketing communications, independently administered and enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) – states:
- (rule 2.1) Marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such
- and (rule 2.4) Marketers and publishers must make clear that advertorials are marketing communications; for example, by heading them “advertisement feature”.
- and (rule 3.1) Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so
CAP issues guidance on all elements of the Code, along with advice and training on the rules. In particular, paragraph 11 of Schedule 1 includes: “Using editorial content in the media to promote a product where a trader has paid for the promotion without making that clear in the content or by images or sounds clearly identifiable by the consumer (advertorial).”
In late 2014, IAB UK commissioned research agency 2CV to conduct a qualitative study into consumer comprehension of content forms of marketing and native distribution formats. Objectives included getting a clear understanding of consumer attitudes towards these forms of marketing and how this varies by demographic and device. The aim of this research was to provide sufficient information to enable the industry to ensure that its commercial arrangements online are, and will continue to be, transparent and clear to consumers. The IAB UK has used this research along with relevant EU and UK legislation to craft their Content and Native Disclosure Guidelines.
Sharethrough firmly supports this guidance and has always sought to make clear and prominent disclosure (including working with the FTC in the US directly over the years). Clear and honest disclosure underpins the longevity of the native ad market. An ecosystem built around consumer understanding sets up a paradigm in which marketers continue to strive to create content that users truly want to read, watch, and share.
While the native ad industry in general is all over the map here, with many having a shocking lack of disclosure, Sharethrough leads the charge and has had clear brand disclosures from the outset, as illustrated in Sharethrough’s ad designs and standards.
Enforces a policy that all placements have a disclosure clause
Maintains the following best practice recommendations and defaults, among others:
Ad units are distinguished by a background color shade
Disclosure visually precedes the bulk of the ad unit, and in particular should be above the headline
Enforces that the disclosure clause consistently contains the word Advertise (or a variant thereof) and the name of the brand on ALL placements - this is not configurable by publishers for third-party-sold ads (via both Sharethrough direct-sales and third-party RTB sales) that Sharethrough delivers to the publisher.
Publishers are allowed to adjust the disclosure on direct-sold campaigns where they can decide which term most appropriately and clearly communicates to the consumer - for these ads Sharethrough is not involved in the advertiser/publisher relationship and disclosure decisions.