Context Matters: Why Ads Do Better Next to Quality Content

Advertising in the wrong context can damage a brand’s reputation, and brands are noticing—which provides an opportunity for creators of high-quality content to boost their ad revenue, a new report finds.

All the chatter about personalization in recent years may make you wonder whether your digital publication is really made for these times in the eyes of advertisers.

But a new report from the firm Integral Ad Science (IAS) offers some good news for those looking to convince advertisers that their site is the place to be. It makes the case—at least from an ad-placement standpoint—that personalized content experiences matter less than high-quality ones. The report, titled The Halo Effect: Ad Environment and Receptivity [registration], concludes that a suitable “safe” environment can be more effective for drawing ad revenue than one in which everything is heavily personalized.

In fact, when an ad is in an “inappropriate” context, such as a YouTube video in which the creator says or does something controversial, consumers are three times less willing to support the brand, according to the research. “They also tend to assume that ad placements alongside unsuitable content are intentional,” the report states.

While the ad industry has been working on the “brand safety” issue in recent years, the IAS research suggests that where an ad is placed still matters. To measure viewer responses to ads in different settings, IAS used steady state topography techniques that tracked study participants’ brain activity in real time. A key finding: An ad viewed next to high-quality content was seen as 74 percent more likable than the same ad viewed next to low-quality content. Audiences were also more generally engaged on high-quality sites, and they tended to remember the content on such sites more often.

“We already knew that ad relevance impacts engagement and that blatantly unsafe environments drive disengagement,” the report states. “We now know the backdrop behind an ad is key for driving brand perception even in non-extreme settings.”

In a follow-up survey of 1,000 Americans that IAS conducted and reported in Digiday, 83 percent of respondents said it’s important that ads appear with high-quality content, slightly more than the 80 percent who said it’s important that ads be “personally relavant.”

“The quality of content in which an ad appears matters to consumers and has a significant impact on their fondness of a brand,” IAS Chief Marketing Officer Tony Marlow wrote in Digiday.

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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