Westminster Media Forum recently hosted a seminar to discuss native advertising and social influencer marketing and their measurement, regulation and impact on brands.

Industry insiders, advertising agencies, content producers, publishers, influencers and regulators joined forces to discuss the challenges faced by these new models of advertising. Central to these latest trends is the shift in content consumption away from desktop devices towards mobile devices.

The seminar focused on three key areas:

  1. Native advertising (i.e. advertising content that imitates and blends into the style of the publisher or platform on which it appears, such as advertorials or promoted listings);
  2. Social influencers (usually individuals with strong social media presence in a particular area of interest); and
  3. Effective consumer protection (with the support of the ASA and the CMA).

Throughout the seminar, a number of themes resonated across the topics discussed. For example:

The global market.

Through digital advertising, online content may be available all over the world. As a result, brands and agencies discussed the importance of carefully considering the campaign’s target audience when producing and distributing content. This is particularly key for influencer marketing, where an influencer may have an online audience in a completely different geographic location to their own. Brands should complete thorough due diligence before investing in an influencer to ensure they have identified the right personality and audience for the project.

Aligning strategy with content.

However the advertising content is produced (whether by a production company or an individual influencer), many of the attendees stressed the need for alignment – it’s in both brands’ and influencers’ mutual interests to be seen as credible, authentic fits. Clear briefing documents and contractual arrangements can help to manage expectations and generate effective results for both parties.

Disclosure and transparency.

As expected, labelling and disclosure of online advertising and marketing communications was a topic of keen discussion. While there has been a flurry of brands, influencers and platforms who are labelling communications, many of the panel suggested that further work in this area is needed. For example, consumer awareness of the different forms of advertising should be improved. Further, the panel discussed whether the tag required to indicate marketing content should be standardised across all advertising and marketing communications (such as “#ad”), or if the indicator tag should differ depending on the specific commercial arrangement between the marketer and publisher (as the communication might not strictly be advertising, but another form of marketing). With the ASA and CMA reporting recent enforcement cases and upcoming research initiatives, it’s clear that transparency in online advertising and marketing continues to be at the top of the regulatory agenda.