9. ICC Guidance on Native Advertising

Document No. 240-712 MCB/sto 6 May 2015


ICC Guidance on Native Advertising

As online advertising has expanded, ad formats that allow the user to experience ads (organically as part of the content) have evolved. This type of paid-for content marketing is known as “native advertising.” While native advertising is not new, it is rapidly growing as web properties seek new ways to monetize and enhance the user experience.

While the mere appearance of a brand or product does not necessarily mean that the content is advertising, there are some principles that are vital to ensure transparency and consumer trust, each of which is addressed in the Consolidated ICC Code of Advertising and Marketing Communications Practice (the ICC Code).

1. Consumers should be able to recognise when something is an ad. This principle is covered in Articles 9, B1, and D1 as follows:

Article 9: Identification: Marketing communications should be clearly distinguishable as such, whatever their form and whatever the medium used. When an advertisement appears in a medium containing news or editorial matter, it should be so presented that it is readily recognisable as an advertisement and the identity of the advertiser should be apparent (see also article 10).

Marketing communications should not misrepresent their true commercial purpose. Hence a marketing communication promoting the sale of a product should not be disguised by the marketer or sponsor as, for example, market research, consumer surveys, user-generated content, private blogs or independent reviews.

Article B1 (in part): Sponsorship should be recognisable as such.

Article D1 (in part): The commercial nature of product endorsements or reviews created by marketers should be clearly indicated and not be listed as being from an individual consumer or independent body.

2. The identity of the advertiser should be easily ascertainable. This principle is covered by Articles 10 and 12, as follows:

Article 10 (in part): The identity of the marketer should be apparent.

Article B12: Media Sponsorship (in part): Sponsored media properties should be identified as such by presentation of the sponsor’s name and/or logo at the beginning, during and/or at the end of the programme or publication content. This also applies to online material.

3. Disclosures should be prominent and understandable to consumers. This principle is covered in section 3 as follows:

Article 3: Honesty: Marketing communications should be so framed as not to abuse the trust of consumers or exploit their lack of experience or knowledge. Relevant factors likely to affect consumers’ decisions should be communicated in such a way and at such a time that consumers can take them into account.

As with many advertising issues in a complex and evolving landscape, application of these principles in a given instance requires judgment and respect for content that is entertainment and news-focused. The approach of the ICC Code – providing general principles applicable to all forms of marketing communications and all media – covers the overarching compliance issues while allowing for innovation.