Global IAA boss: no one cares about church and state when it comes to native advertising

IAA boss Lee

IAA boss Lee

The global boss of the International Advertising Association (IAA) has dismissed concerns that native advertising is eroding consumer trust in the media saying they are not concerned about the separation of sales and editorial, often referred to as church and state.

IAA managing director Michael Lee told Mumbrella the ongoing global concern about native advertising, typically described as advertising that appears in the news feed of publications and looks similar to the editorial offering, was overstated.

“I don’t think that anyone really cares,” Lee said. “Church and state might just be a hangover from the old days but I don’t think the average consumer really cares.” Citing the global growth of native advertising, which is expected to hit $4.3b globally in 2015, Lee argued it was here to stay “and increasingly saving the bacon of a lot of legacy media companies”.

“The church and state scenario is not as intensive as it used to be and I think that those who are doing it well are doing it really well.”

Challenged on the issue of whether blurred lines between sales and editorial might erode trust he responded: “Responsibility is always something that publishers need to keep an eye on, as is trust.

“If you look at the global brands who are doing native advertising they have done it really carefully and prudentially and if that’s the trend we continue to see then native advertising is here to stay and it will do extremely well.”

Asked about the global concern on the issue of ad fraud, which has recently been making headlines in Australia, Lee noted that it was an ongoing issue.

“I remember speaking at a conference in Australia back in 2005 and one of the topics was click fraud,” he said. “And then again in 2009 we did a conference in Australia where fraud was again on the agenda.

“We’ve been talking about ad fraud for a long time but it has really only emerged in the US in March 2014 as something which is a very big issue.”

He argued that Australia had a key role to play in the debate as an incubator of global issues and trends, but said the debate really needed to be led by clients.

“Australia has always played a very big role in the trends as it has often been an incubator for all kinds of things, fast food packaging etc.

“But advertisers need to drive the conversation. The big brands need to drive the conversation and make some demands otherwise the story is going nowhere.”

Lee also said client concerns around transparency on things like global ad deals between media owners and major agencies would lead to a continued move to take things in-house.

He added: “One of the big global chairman, without naming names, was reputed to have said he was very transparent about not being transparent and I think the brands that we talk to feel they sometimes sign very big global deals and with the big digital enterprises and once the money is in the bank there is not an awful lot of dialogue going on.

“The risk is that clients start to bring things in-house. I think transparency and security – in particular the security of data – are part of that conversation.”

The IAA has an international network in over 76 countries and works to represent the common interests of all the disciplines across the full spectrum of marketing communications.

“We have been around 75 plus years and we like to think about ourselves as a forum for global issues,” said Lee.

“Whether its talking about these issues be it fraud, automation or transparency the advertising speedometer isn’t at the same pace everywhere and one of the things we like to do is migrate that information.”

Lee was speaking as part of a week-long visit to Australia.

Nic Christensen 


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.