The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IBA) has recently released new guidelines ("Phase 2") for good practice in relation to disclosure in online content-based advertising. The framework follows IAB "Phase 1 Guidelines for Native Distribution Formats" that were published in February 2015.
The IAB’s Content and Native Council categorize content marketing into three areas: brand-owned contentnon-formatted advertising and native distribution formats. These guidelines cover only non-formatted content based advertising (i.e. commercial content that is advertiser-controlled or jointly publisher/advertiser controlled). The guidelines recommend brand owners, marketing practitioners and publishers to follow three principles when entering into an agreement to publish content-based advertising:

  • Provide consumers with prominently visible visual cues to enable them to understand immediately that they are engaging with marketing content;
  • Ensure that the content has a reasonably visible label. The label should be upfront in order that it is visible as soon as the consumer engages with the content. The language of the label must demonstrate that a commercial arrangement is in place and makes it clear that the content is marketing; and
  • Ensure that the marketing communication adheres to relevant legislationregulatory codes or industry codes.

In addition, the IAB has released an updated draft of technical guidelines for brand marketers and ads developers, concerning how to produce ads in HTML5 format that meet the IAB creative guidelines for desktop and mobile display ads ("HTML5 Guidelines"). 
These guidelines, which are aimed at creating a unified and scalable digital advertising industry, include technical advice on creative assets optimization for desktop and mobile viewers, recommendations on video and animation executions, specifications concerning how to utilize shared content libraries and suggestions on text and fonts.
The HTML5 Guidelines underscore the current trend of migration of digital ads from using Adobe Flash to HTML5 format. This trend stems from both security and optimization reasons: Flash is widely criticized for various security vulnerabilities (as was demonstrated last July, when Yahoo fell victim to a "malvertising" attack through an Adobe Flash software exploit); in addition, HTML5 renders more easily multimedia content as it is capable of running on any computer and mobile device, while some devices do not support Flash-powered content.
This trend was also demonstrated in Google Chrome's decision to prevent video flash ads from automatically playing when a website loads, by default, as we previously reported.