Steve Dempsey: Advertisers should heed the good news for premium news websites
Not all online advertising is created equal. So says a new report from ComScore, the global media analytics firm.
The study, called The Halo Effect, looks at how advertising on premium publishers drives higher ad effectiveness and it aims to understand whether media quality makes a difference when it comes to advertising effectiveness.
And it seems it does. At least in America.
This is good news for beleaguered publishers who have seen audiences turn on ad blockers in their droves, eschew websites for slick social-distribution platforms and seen direct sales jeopardised by the rise of ad exchanges.
ComScore analysed the effectiveness of 15 big-brand display-ad campaigns on normal websites, compared to top news sites. (The thorny issue of defining what is a 'top news site' was sidestepped by using membership of Digital Content Next as a proxy. Digital Content Next is a US trade organisation for large publishers. Its members include Business Insider, Bloomberg, ESPN, Harvard Business Review, New York Times, Washington Post, AP etc.)
The study found that advertising on premium sites was significantly more effective in delivering brand lift. Display ads on Digital Content Next premium publisher sites had an average of 67pc higher brand lift than other publishers.
But ComScore also analysed the results for the different segments of the marketing funnel. At the top of the funnel, which relates to brand awareness and recall, premium publishers delivered a 32pc lift above the average website impression.
At the bottom of the funnel - purchase intent and share of consumer choice - ComScore measured a 9pc improvement.
But it's mid-funnel where premium sites really flex their marketing muscles. Brands chasing favourability, consideration and likelihood to recommend should really be thinking about quality-news websites. The study found that they outperform other websites by a factor of three to one.
"Advertisers are likely to benefit from driving gains across all key brand-lift metrics when advertising on premium-publisher sites," the report concludes dryly. "But they may derive especially strong benefit in advertising on premium sites when they are specifically focused on increasing how consumers feel about their brands.
"Given the importance of this phase of the funnel to moving the needle for large, well-established brands, there may be merit to activating a digital-media strategy that directs more of its spending toward premium publishers."
Why do premium publishers outperform the competition? Well, viewability is certainly a factor. Larger news sites are more likely to have implemented persistent billboards or MPUs (mid-page units), readers are more likely to spend more time on site, meaning more ads can be served. The ad inventory is generally of a higher standard and the numbers are less likely to be inflated by invalid traffic and bots.
It all adds up. ComScore found that ads on premium sites had an average viewability rate above its viewability benchmark and above the viewability rates of other sites.
There's undoubtedly a cultural component to ComScore's halo effect too. Audiences are used to bigger advertisers going hand in hand with bigger brands in publishing - and that often means established publishers. Proximity to news and premium content is often an implicit indication of a brand's prominence.
Marketers should also be aware that no matter how smart they get at targeting and retargeting or how well they can drive down the cost of reaching consumers through programmatic buying, the context in which an ad runs still carries weight.
For established news outlets, ComScore's report offers some validation that their sites have a social prominence that others lack. But premium sites can't rest on their laurels (if they have any left). They have allowed plucky start-ups, social platforms and clickbait merchants to steal the audience and steal a march in business-to-business marketing.
Premium websites, especially those attached to legacy publishing operations, need to come out fighting and prove to advertisers that they offer something unique.
Reports like this provide them with some ammunition, but they need to be smarter and more co-ordinated when it comes to the battle for brands' budgets. If they don't, they're just shooting themselves in the foot.
Sunday Indo Business