Consumers are finding it increasingly difficult to differentiate between advertising and editorial content as publishers muddy the waters through their choice of wording and placement, according to new research.
A study conducted by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia found that adverts prefaced as a ‘brand voice’ or ‘presented by’ were far less likely to be identified as paid for content than content labelled ‘advertising’ or ‘sponsored content’.
In all respondents were seven times less likely to pick up on the former wording.
Furthermore eye-tracking software showed that the position of any disclaimer was also key, with only 40 per cent of readers clocking a disclosure at the top of the page – whilst 90 per cent picked it up ‘in an outlined box’ in the middle of the story and 60 per cent at the bottom.
Report co-author Bartosz Wojdynski said: “If the goal is to minimise the likelihood that a consumer will miss the label, publishers need to do a better job of putting these labels in places where readers’ eyes will go. That means not at the top of the page with the banner and navigation, and not in the right rail, where consumers are used to seeing display ads.”
Fellow author Nathaniel Evans added: “…disclosing the content as advertising after the consumer has already digested it may help them identify the content as advertising but might not be all that effective in mitigating negative sentiment toward the content or advertiser because they may feel deceived.
“In that regard, finding the appropriate time/location/language to help the consumer see and understand that it is advertising may afford them the opportunity to process the content with the knowledge that it is an ad. We believe that advertisers would benefit from being transparent in this vein, and furthermore, such an approach could end up being good for business in the long run.”
A group of 242 consumers were given 500 to 600 word sample native ads to inform the survey findings.