Research: Consumers say a quality ad environment is even more important than a personalized one

By Tony Marlow, Chief Marketing Officer, Integral Ad Science

Digital technology continues to pave the way for new media channels. In the last decade, we’ve seen a rise in the popularity of social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Spotify and Snapchat, as well as new media formats like podcasts and streaming services for videos and music. On top of that, with content creation booming at an exponential rate, consumers have more distractions than ever before.

In a recent study commissioned by Integral Ad Science (IAS) — The Halo Effect: Ad Environment & Receptivity — we learned that consumers exhibit different neurological reactions to ads placed in environments of differing quality. Ads alongside high-quality content produced significantly higher brain activity related to positive increases in likeability, engagement, and memorability.

As a follow-up to this study, IAS conducted additional research among a sample of 1,000 survey respondents in the United States, aiming to quantify and understand the perceived importance of content quality for both brands and consumers. Do consumers’ brand perceptions change when faced with a difference in environmental quality in which an ad is placed? Findings from this survey echoed the results from the neurological study.

  1. Content quality matters slightly more than personally relevant content
    The quality of the environment in which digital ads are placed is important to consumers. About 83 percent of US consumers cite that it is important that the ads they see are placed next to high-quality content. This is slightly more than the percentage of US consumers that place high importance towards ads that are personally relevant, which was measured at 80 percent.
  2. Consumers are less likely to engage with ads in low-quality environments
    52 percent of US consumers also state that they are more likely to engage with an ad that is adjacent to high-quality content; which is significantly greater than the 13 percent who say they would engage with an ad adjacent to low-quality content. This creates opportunities for marketers to enhance consumer engagement with their brand by not only tailoring their ads to be personally relevant to the consumer, but by also ensuring that the ads are in high-quality content environments.
  3. Ads in low-quality environments annoy most consumers
    Consumer perceptions are affected by content and environment. 81 percent of US consumers find it annoying when a brand appears next to low-quality content. Subsequently, over half (52 percent) would feel less favorable towards a brand if their ad appeared next to low-quality content. In fact, 62 percent of consumers said that they would even stop using a brand’s products or services because of the adjacency an ad has to low-quality content. Ultimately, ads that are placed in low-quality environments elicit negative sentiments among consumers to the detriment of marketers’ brands.

Take responsibility and control 

According to  IAS’s recent brand safety survey, only 37 percent of marketers feel they are the ones who are responsible for brand safety. Brands look to and rely on tech partners to ensure that their ads do not appear on low-quality sites or alongside unsafe content that is not suitable for their brand. Interestingly, while 63 percent of marketers feel that they are not the ones who are responsible for brand safety, 63 percent of consumers hold brands accountable for the content that appears next to advertisements.

Understanding consumers’ emotional responses to ads — as well as their perceptions of them — in high versus low quality environments will better equip marketers for planning their digital campaigns. The quality of content in which an ad appears matters to consumers and has a significant impact on their fondness of a brand. Marketers need to take heed and continue to make a concerted effort in ensuring ads are run in high-quality environments, to not only reach consumers, but make better connections with them as well.

To download the full Halo Effect study, click here.

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