Proposed guidelines for online ads unveiled: Should your business consider native advertising?

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The Australian branch of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is looking for public comment on proposed changes to online advertising guidelines in an effort to create less intrusive ads.

The IAB is an international trade association for online advertising, with prominent members like News Corp and Fairfax Media.

The body has posted a list of proposed guidelines on its website, reports Mumbrella, as a response to the rise of programs such as AdBlock, which was present on over 200 million computers in April this year.

Australia’s IAB office is following its American counterpart, after the US branch sought comment on suggested guidelines after revealing them at the IAB Mixx conference last week.

The Australian office is not required to follow the US, but IAB Australia chief executive Vijay Solanki told Mumbrella the standards would be posted for local consultation and that this would run parallel with the US consultation.

The IAB does not hold not jurisdiction over its member’s actions, and members can choose not to follow the guidelines if the Bureau implements them.

But international tech giant Google was one organisation involved in the creation of the proposed guidelines, and it has been known to downgrade websites’ search listings if they do not comply with the IAB’s guidelines.

This could prove problematic for operations like Fairfax Media, which currently uses non-muted auto play videos, a rule that is highlighted in the proposed changes.

This is part of the IAB’s new LEAN standard, with the proposal highlighting that a “consumer’s primary objective is consuming publisher content”.

The LEAN standard also recommends consumers having full control over their advertising experience and how long they view advertising for. It highlights a need for lightweight (non data intensive) and “non disruptive ad experiences”.

The rest of the proposal includes guidelines for popup and expandable ads, which must not use “flashing and bright colour animations” and will require a “clear and discrete cancel or close button”.

Melbourne University lecturer and advertising expert Lauren Rosewarne welcomes these changes, telling SmartCompany “guidelines are long overdue”.

“Given that few people ever express wanting more advertising, it is easy to assume that most people find pop-ups annoying,” Rosewarne says.

“In certain circumstances, on smart phones for example, these ads waste time and, in attempts to close them, you end up being taken to the advertised page.”

Other major changes included in the proposed guidelines are changes to auto play video suggestions, which along with being muted, must also not play if the user is on a cellular connection in order to reduce data usage.

A major proposed change for many media websites is restrictions to inline ads, which open or expand when the user lands on a page. These ads will no longer be allowed to disrupt the page’s content. “The ad must not overlay content and must not disrupt (push down or block) the placement of content while expanding,” the IAB states.

Finally, the proposed guidelines also relate to native or sponsored advertising, where advertisements are integrated into a user’s content experience in the guise of articles or videos.

The IAB’s guidelines would see these ads with a compulsory “Sponsored by” message, containing the brand name and the sponsor. The proposed guidelines also recommend “descriptive text associated with the product or service being advertised”.

With the comparatively lax suggestions for native advertising, Rosewarne thinks native ads might be the way to go for businesses looking to advertise, saying “pop-ups is not a strategy as successful as other online marketing like native ads”.

“Aesthetically native ads simply look better; they aren’t covering up content and I don’t need to close them to continue the business of accessing content,” Rosewarne says.

“Most consumers understand that we wouldn’t have as much of the free content online without advertising, but ideally, such advertising shouldn’t ruin the desire to visit these sites.”

SmartCompany contacted the IAB, but did not receive a response prior to publication.


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