Is “Native advertising” well targeted and appealing content that will reach consumers in a way that will lead them to brand interaction that they appreciate, or is it camouflaged ad copy seeking to hoodwink consumers into thinking they are reading independent content when they aren’t? As with so many things it depends on the context, but in terms of the CAP Code what is meant by native advertising is key, because put simply, the first option is fine and the second just, well, isn’t.

When a technology or method is new, there is often an inclination to assume that new rules are needed or that novelty somehow escapes existing principles. Marketers should be extremely careful of falling into this trap. Section 2 of the CAP Code deals with the recognition of marketing communications and these rules apply regardless of the targeting or medium. The CAP Code states that marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such (rule 2.1). It doesn’t matter if the ad is on a bill board, on social media such as Twitter, promoted via an affiliate or presented using the next “big thing”. If that next “big thing” is “native advertising” then it is important to remember that whilst context driven content isn’t a problem in and of itself, cloaking advertisements as editorial is; which is why the CAP Code requires that advertorials are clearly labelled as such. The ASA has upheld complaints against online advertorials which did not make their nature clear (Unilever UK Ltd, 2 November 2011).

Marketing communications must not falsely claim or imply that the marketer is acting as a consumer or for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession; marketing communications must make clear their commercial intent, if that is not obvious from the context (rule 2.4). It’s probably worth pointing out that this rule reflects a practice banned by statute, namely the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs). This AdviceOnline article on Social Media shows examples of how advertisers have innovated successfully whilst staying in line with the rules and times when they haven’t. This week’s Nike twitter ad ruling shows that where the overall effect is that a tweet is obviously identifiable as a marcom, it’s not necessary to use “#ad”.

It’s also worth remembering when targeting consumers online that there are specific rules on Online Behavioural Advertising. This OBA AdviceOnline article provides a summary of guidance on the rules and links to a full Help Note.

Ultimately when going for a fresh approach, it’s best practice to think about whether the ad is recognisable as such from the start. This way creativity and Code compliance can work side by side rather than against each other. After all, an upheld ASA adjudication doesn’t just show the Code was breached, it represents investment in an approach which caused the targeted consumer not to engage with the brand: but to complain.

As always CopyAdvice is happy to discuss potential approaches confidentially on our general line 0207 492 2100.

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