Do disclaimers on native advertising work?

As the NZ Herald and Fairfax move to extend their already considerable investment in native advertising, the advertising made to look like journalism, there is growing evidence that their disclaimers don’t work.

The disclaimers are what news executives like Tim Murphy and Shayne Currie use to justify their extension of native advertising.

While publishers are producing and running sponsored content in greater numbers, one thing they haven’t figured out is how to effectively label their output. Some publishers are particularly overt about it, while others are content with making readers work a little bit harder. And no one’s quite sure which approach works best.

The real challenge is that a lot of those disclosures may not be all that effective. A new study from analytics platform Nudge found that the most common native ad disclosures are actually the least effective at helping readers identify their content as ads. Sponsored content using disclosure techniques like the home page buyout (used, for example, by The Wall Street Journal) and the persistent disclosure banner (used by Slate) were only identified as ads by readers 29 percent of the time.

In contrast, Nudge found that over half of the 100 people it polled were able to to identify ads that featured disclosures within the content itself. In-content disclosures are rare compared to the other techniques, though.

Nudge’s conclusion: Some publishers may be going out of their way to label sponsored content, but readers are barely noticing them, thanks to banner blindness and small labeling. Ben Young, CEO of Nudge, said that this is more than publishers staying honest in the eyes of the FTC. Bad disclosure can actually hurt brands, too. “Effective disclosures mean effective brand recall,” he said.

[…]   

It’s easy to understand publishers’ hesitation toward overly disclosing the brands sponsoring their content. A recent poll by content marketing company Contently found that two-thirds of readers felt tricked when they clicked on sponsored content, and over half of readers said that they don’t trust sponsored content at all.

I bet APN and Fairfax aren’t telling their marks for sponsored content that reader feel tricked.

Still, publishers say that it’s important that their brand partners and readers are on the same page. “No one — brands or publishers — is in the business of tricking readers,” said Josh Sternberg, content strategist at The Washington Post (and a former Digiday employee). “That said, labeling as you and I both know could be stronger across the industry — from font size to different shading, et cetera.”

Oh yes they are indeed in the business of tricking readers. They just haven’t yet been honest about it.

Little wonder that public perception of news organisations continues to drop at alarming rates.

While John Drinnan carps on about paid for content with other publishers he has said precious little about the team of people sitting not far from his desk that are sitting there writing paid for content and charging it at alarming rates to the advertiser.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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