IAB Presents Content & Native Advertising Definitions

IAB Presents Content & Native Advertising Definitions

We’re always trying to stay ahead of the game, so when the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) released definition guidelines related to content and native advertising, we wanted to share some of the insights with you. 

The principal aim of the IAB guidelines is to assist media publishers and brands in their marketing efforts by providing standardised terminology.

The working paper divides types of marketing into four categories based on broad features and commercial characteristics; these include brand-owned content, display advertising formats, paid content and native distribution.

The broad definitions will initially be used by the IAB’s Content and Native Advertising Working Group and at a later stage specific labels will be developed that will clarify the terminology relating to the field of advertising research. Commenting on the guidelines, Clare O’Brien, senior industry’s programmes manager at IAB UK, said that the definitions were made necessary by marketers who are focusing increasingly on content and native advertising – effectively making them their main marketing tactic.

The purpose of the document is to help the Working Group do its job more efficiently and also to help brands and publishers start speaking a common language when it comes to these new digital advertising formats. As this terminology becomes more and more popular, we can only see this as a good thing for the industry, placing everyone – from experts such as ourselves to those less experienced in the field – on a level pegging.


The IAB Content and Native Advertising Working Group was set up three months ago and consists of marketing and advertising experts from leading agencies, publishers and advertising technology firms.The aim of the Group is to develop common terminology for all stakeholders in the fast-growing content and native marketing industry in order to facilitate their work. Efforts will also include research, labelling, good practice standards and industry showcasing. The current definition guidelines are the first step on the road to developing an entire framework for all professionals to benefit from.When it comes to content and native marketing, definitions can vary greatly, although they all focus on the quality and relevance of content produced to promote a brand. The Content Marketing Institute, for instance, defines content marketing as producing valuable copy with the aim of changing or enhancing consumer behaviour. It is a form of communication with potential customers without trying to sell them anything directly – however, other definitions state that the aim of content marketing is, in fact, selling.


Native advertising, on the other hand, can be seen (according to Guardian author Tony Hallett) as a curious sub-category of content marketing, the principal aim of which is to create engagement with consumers and build trust in a brand. This category can also be used as a selling tactic, however. Despite the best efforts of the IAB – they recently recently released a “Native Advertising Playbook” which outlines the six main formats this category typically uses – there is still a lot of confusion surrounding content marketing and native advertising, as well as other marketing strategies such as inbound marketing and marketing automation.