Ad tech company Polar analysed 137 native ad placements in 67 unique styles across 65 different websites belonging to client publishers across North America and Europe for its report The State of Native Disclosure.
It found that 85% of all native ad units contained only one disclosure term, with "sponsored" and variants thereof being most commonly used: these featured in 55.2% of disclosure terms, three times as many as the next most popular term, "promoted" (17.9%).
Some 7.5% had no term attached, with the publisher relying on the use of the name or logo of the advertiser to indicate the origin of the content; "presented" and "partner" (both 6.0%) were preferred to "advertisement" (4.5%) .
Performance of different terms varied substantially, by as much as 60% between the highest performing term ("promoted") and lowest performing term ("presented"), the study reported. Federal Trade Commission guidelines, however, recommend avoiding the use of "promoted", which it regards as being too ambiguous.
Most native ad units had at least two design elements, such as shading, the presence of a border or icon, to distinguish the content from editorial.
Around two thirds of native ad units analysed did not use shading, while the other third shaded the native ad to clearly delineate from other units on the page.
Average click through rates for shaded native ads on desktop were 10% less than for unshaded ones but that picture changed dramatically when applied to mobile, where shading produced a significantly better response.
"It may seem publisher's trepidation for this design practice is unfounded; on mobile, the CTR of native ads with shading heavily outperformed those without shading by 81%," Polar noted.
It attributed this to limited screen real estate: "shading affords the ability to grab someone's attention as they are scroll the page," it said. Federal Trade Commission guidelines advocate the use of shading and borders to stand out
Data sourced from Polar; additional content by Warc staff