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The Importance of Tagging Paid Content or Advertising to Distinguish Native Ads

One of the most common topics when discussing Native Advertising is whether a visitor to a news site is deceived into thinking that the in-site ad is a piece of editorial content.

There is widespread suspicion among journalists, especially those working in traditional advertising, that visitor deception is an integral part of in-content advertising.

But in reality we need to take every precaution to ensure that visitors to news sites are never in doubt about whether the content they are reading or viewing is editorial or paid for. There is no benefit at all in trying to deceive the visitor, on the contrary when deceiving the visitor it will have a negative impact on how the brand behind the ad is perceived.

Some people may think that distinguishing the ad or indicating that this ad is paid may make visitors avoid the ad. But this belief is wrong. We should look at the signs that this is a paid ad as being beneficial to the entire concept of native advertising. Because we do not want to end up deceiving anyone and for the purpose of the advertisement or the brand behind it to be unclear to the user.

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What makes it a bit worrying is that according to research from Contently, when it comes to in-stream ads, the results are as follows:

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  • Visitors see in-stream ads as an article and nothing shows that it's an ad.
  • Visitors often have difficulty identifying the brand behind native ads.
  • 62% of users believe that a news site loses its credibility when it publishes native ads and there is no indication that it is an ad.
  • 48% felt cheated upon realizing a piece of content was sponsored by a brand, a decrease of 15% from last year's survey.

The key takeaway from the Contently study is that it largely depends on how clear labels like “paid content” or “advertising” are and how transparent a brand is about using native ads. When looking at news sites like the New York Times and BuzzFeed, which used very clear tags within the content from the beginning, they performed better than other sites.

Advertiser clarification can increase the effectiveness of the ad itself, with a study from Polar indicating a 15% increase in click-through rates (CTR) when the brand behind the ad is made clear.

But the main reason why it is important to have signs indicating that this is a sponsored ad such as “sponsored content” or “advertising” is to reduce the number of people who mistake native ads for editorial content, and as a result the user feels cheated or loses confidence in the credibility of the site.

Just like news sites need income from native advertising because other types of digital advertising become less effective, brands also need native advertising as a way to communicate their important message to the audience of that platform and increase sales, which is why it is not in the interest of either of them to Visitors feel cheated or untrustworthy.

To some extent, the reason why users feel this is because they do not have good knowledge of the forms and types of integrated ads, but as people become more accustomed to native ads, things will become much better. But that doesn't stop brands and media sites from actively seeking ways to make native advertising stand out from editorial content.

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