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Critical to Success of In-Feed Sponsored Content Are Brand Familiarity, Trust and Subject Matter Authority, as Well as Relevance, According to New Research from IAB & Edelman Berland

A new comprehensive study of U.S. online news users by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Edelman Berland shows that relevancy (90%) is the top factor in sparking interest in in-feed sponsored content, yet it also clearly demonstrates that the public’s feelings about the advertiser itself determines the success of this type of native advertising. Criteria such as brand familiarity and trust (81%), as well as subject matter expertise (82%), were identified as critical in driving news reading consumers’ interest in sponsored content.

Preconceived opinions about a publisher are also an important part of the equation, with the research showing that a positive view of a news site’s credibility can significantly impact readers’ feelings about sponsored content – sparking a 33 percent uptick in perceived credibility of the ad’s content.

Good storytelling was also singled out as a key part of the mix. Nearly two-thirds (60%) of online news visitors said that they are more open to digital advertising that focuses on a story rather than selling a product.

“This new study shows that in-feed sponsored content can be a win for brands and publishers both, when consumers’ viewpoints are taken into account,” said Sherrill Mane, Senior Vice President, Research, Analytics and Measurement, IAB. “News publishers get greater impact when they work with familiar and trusted brands. By the same token, marketers see greater lift when publishers are perceived by consumers as credible news outlets. There are a myriad of other issues at play too, so it is incumbent upon everyone involved to understand key criteria when agreeing to a native advertising campaign.”

Drilling down into specific news verticals – business, entertainment and general news – revealed differences in each news user group’s perception of sponsored content. For example, when asked to look at real-world mockups of news pages, most business and entertainment news audiences (82% and 85% respectively) felt that in-feed sponsored content was easy to single out, while the general news audience had more trouble, with less than half (41%) recognizing that the material was advertising.

General news audiences continued to be an outlier throughout the research, but when handled correctly, the study finds that sponsored content can offer a strong upside for both marketer and publisher across all three verticals. More than half of business and entertainment news users surveyed stated that sponsored content has the potential to increase the favorability of a brand advertiser and news site across a variety of dimensions. A similar response is also possible with the general news audience, but it seems that they have a higher bar for in-feed sponsored content in order to boost their approval of a marketer or publisher.

“We already knew from click-through rates and other metrics that sponsored content, or native advertising, has performed well compared to other display ads,” said Steve Rubel, Chief Content Strategist, Edelman. “But, with these findings, we’ve now uncovered how consumers really feel about this content – and are able to provide insights into what it will take for brands and publishers to succeed when it comes to this form of native advertising.”

“In-depth consumer research, such as this, will ultimately benefit advertisers, publishers and consumers alike,” said Ari Lewine, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of TripleLift, which served as the sponsor of the study. "It's essential to have objective research on consumers' viewpoints, and that's why TripleLift supported this endeavor."

To download the entire “Getting Sponsored Content Right: The Consumer View” research report, please go to www.iab.net/consumerview.


The IAB and Edelman Berland surveyed 5,000 people who visit U.S. news sites from PCs. The group was surveyed after they were exposed to mock in-feed ads that resemble what is now common on business, entertainment and general news sites. These questions were informed by focus groups held in New York and Washington D.C. The study has a margin of error of +/-1.4 percentage points.

About Edelman Berland

Edelman Berland is a global, full-service market insights and analytics firm that provides corporate, non-profit and government clients with strategic intelligence to make their communications and engagements with stakeholders the smartest they can be. The firm specializes in measurement, tracking and analysis in reputation, branding and communications. Edelman Berland is part of Edelman, the world’s largest public relations company. Edelman Berland has more than 100 employees in offices around the world. Edelman Berland: Intelligent Engagement.

About the IAB

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is comprised of more than 600 leading media and technology companies that are responsible for selling 86 percent of online advertising in the United States. The IAB empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. The organization educates marketers, agencies, media companies and the wider business community about the value of interactive advertising. Working with its member companies, the IAB evaluates and recommends standards and practices and fields critical research on interactive advertising. Founded in 1996, the IAB is headquartered in New York City with a Public Policy office in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit iab.net.

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