Over the last decade, targeted behavioral advertising has become the dominant approach to digital advertising. Sophisticated data-driven targeting has enabled advertisers to reach the same audiences regardless of the content they consume, leading some to the incorrect conclusion that context is of little relevance.
Following a string of major adjacency scandals in digital advertising since 2017, technological solutions and full-blown brand safety strategies have quickly developed. Avoiding blatantly inappropriate content is only the beginning, however, as advertisements appear next to safe but unfit content might actively harm brands’ reputations. Advertisers are now demanding more granular controls to manage their unique risk tolerance levels so that they can run their campaigns in environments that suit their brand.
Research commissioned by Integral Ad Science (IAS) in partnership with Neuro-Insight, a global leader in neuroscience-based market research, debuted today, highlighting the effect of surrounding content over advertising perception. Findings from the report show that display ads seen on high-quality mobile sites were liked more than the same ads seen on low-quality sites. Additionally, ad placements alongside high-quality content produced higher engagement and memorability, providing advertisers with a more involved audience that is more likely to remember their campaign.
The study measured the neurological reaction of participants during a 30-minute mobile experience across four key metrics: favorability, engagement, emotional intensity and long-term memory encoding. Each participant visited eight pre-selected mobile sites evenly split into high- and low-quality categories based on IAS’s proprietary brand risk score. Three ads from major brands spanning the auto, CPG, financial services, technology, and retail industries were embedded into each site.
Here’s what we learned:
Same ad, different reaction
Ads running on high-quality sites were perceived 74% more favorably compared to the same ads seen in low-quality sites. It’s not just that ads were liked less when spotted on low-quality sites — they were actively rejected.
Considering that consumers tend to assume advertisers intentionally place ads running next to unsuitable content, the negative consequences for brands quickly escalate. Understandably, 80% of US marketers plan to reduce ad spending with partners that publish in brand-unsafe environments.
Quality content drives engagement
Advertisements appearing alongside content on high-quality sites may even benefit from more involved consumers. Findings from our study showed audiences on high-quality sites registered 20% higher engagement than they did on low-quality sites.
High-quality publishers’ ability to deliver valuable audiences in brand-suitable environments does not go unnoticed among advertisers. Over half of US marketers say they will likely increase ad spending with publishers who have taken steps to protect their partners against brand risk.
Greater memorability on quality sites
Transference from short term to long term memory indicates brand breakthrough and correlates with decision making and purchase intent. Our research shows that high quality sites produced 30% greater memorability, offering a more conducive environment for long term memory transfer–i.e., brand recall.
Make sure to check out our follow-up research, The Ripple Effect, to read what consumers are saying about ads that appear next to low-quality content.