Yes, where an ad appears does matter
The right environment makes a difference in an ad’s reception
By Diego Vasquez July 22, 2014
Context matters. That’s the conclusion of a new report on the effectiveness of online advertising, which found that the context in which an ad is presented makes a huge difference in its perception. The study found that an ad received a more favorable reaction when it appeared on a site associated with a trusted brand or publisher. Ads that appeared on sites with lower brand recognition and trust scored much lower in perception. The study suggests that perhaps a human element is necessary in placing ad buys to ferret out the most trusted site as opposed to the best deal, at a time when ad buying is moving toward increased automation. Programmatic buying, which is essentially an automated way to buy display advertising, loses that human element that can be the difference between choosing a trusted site and one where the cost is lower but the ad’s resonance is higher. Millward Brown Digital’s Joline McGoldrick, director of research, and Hannah Pavalow, senior research analyst, talk to Media Life about ad perceptions, the advantage of the human touch, and how to find a wellreceived publisher.
What’s the most interesting or most surprising thing you learned from this study?
McGoldrick: Sometimes the most surprising thing is how you can quantify your intuitions. This idea we got to–that all sites are not equal–ultimately becomes the most important finding. It really does matter, and coming back to that is really important. So to me supporting your intuition is the most important thing.
Pavalow: It was also really interesting the positioning of the site’s brand as being important to the ad experience, not just the advertisers’ brand. That was a little different in the way people were thinking about brands and what matters.
What’s the most important thing media buyers can take from it?
McGoldrick: There are a lot of things media buyers are intuitively doing, and this gives them tools to back up those intuitions. Having numbers to give you better comparisons, you can actually measure it and see what might work best for the brand you’re trying to advertise.
Why do you argue that brand perception, power and differentiation should be given equal consideration to audience and reach in digital ad buying?
McGoldrick: Those things, just like brand strength score, are affecting that experience. When you’re only optimizing based on the person you want to reach, you may be missing out.
Pavalow: The reach comes down to the “who,” and that’s important, but it’s basically how are we reaching them, how can we quantify the experience on that site? So then you can prepare them for a positive advertising experience. What is their receptivity on that site?
What is “meaningful difference” and how does it help foster trust in advertising?
Pavalow: When we’re talking about meaningful difference, there are a couple of components. One is it meets the needs of that person going there [to the site], and also differentiating it from the competitors. And also how top of mind is it? These are all measures of brand and strength of brand.
Also, how much do people trust a site and how much are they willing to share it? It’s a good indicator to see if the site is set up to give the visitor a good ad experience. We can see the connection between a strong brand strength score and setting up the user for a good experience.
How does site pedigree, or how long the brand has been established, help increase online ad awareness?
Pavalow: This one’s changed a little bit in how we’re thinking about it.
When thinking about site pedigree, it’s more about understanding how the site is perceived by the visitor. Whether it’s through offline channels or if it’s an independent site, it changes what people expect from the site. Understanding where the site fits helps explain which types of brands should be advertising there. A more rebellious site can do more outthere advertising and attract different brand, while a more established site might be used to sell something that takes a little more trust.
What is the tie between everyday relevance and higher ad awareness?
McGoldrick: Everyday relevance is about understanding where the site fits in to a user’s routine. If they go every single day, or maybe just once a month, it will affect how they perceive the ads and how they relate to them. So understanding how it fits into the routine can help optimize an ad campaign.
How can an advertiser take these findings and apply them to their site?
McGoldrick: There are a couple different thing they could be doing. The first is, for traditional advertisers, they have to manage their brands. Sites want to manage their brands too, to see how they index versus competitors and also how the decisions sites make influence a site’s brands. They want to be able to track that in a way they can make decisions behind it. When a site changes a layout, for example, it’s really important to measure the effect of that for that site brand so you can see if it’s a better ad experience or not. So that’s part one to it.
The other part is, we know sites are always under pressure to prove to advertisers they should go with that site versus another site. This is something that says “we’re better than generic programmatic ads or another site, and here are numbers to prove it.” This gives them a tool to measure brand equity.
In your opinion, are sites getting better at thinking about all of these factors?
McGoldrick: It varies. Depending on the sites, a lot more are looking for tools. The ones who are most aware of the pressure [from advertisers] are actively looking for tools. I don’t think there are many that are unaware, because it’d be affecting everything about their business. I think they’re all aware of this but they’re looking in different places for different tools. Even within programmatic there’s an understanding that it’s not just about reaching the audience, if you want it to be longterm successful, there are nuances to it. And there’s awareness that there are tools that can help do that.
Can you give a reallife example of how the publisher’s brand helps boost an ad and why?
Pavalow: One of the examples that we’ve seen was ESPN.
They do a great job of having a strong brand itself, which translates into people trusting ads on the site. But they also do a good job of aligning themselves with the brands on their site. The brands match the site in tone and also in the behaviors of people visiting that site. The brands know it will be a positive experience when they show up on the site.