In digital advertising, premium matters
When it comes to the effectiveness of premium publishers versus the rest, it’s all about better metrics and the right context.
A recent white paper by the measurement company comScore tackles branding effectiveness and the effect media quality has on it. Their study analyses the performance of display and video ads appearing on media of different qualities, in terms of the level of ad effectiveness they drive.
The first question is, of course, how is “media quality” defined? The study uses the members of Digital Content Next (DCN) — a trade organization that brings together high-quality digital content companies and emphasizes direct relationships with marketers — as a proxy for “premium publishers”. Some big brand digital names in the DCN are CNBC, Bloomberg, ABC, The New York Times, ESPN and Turner [Note: The Economist Group is not a member of the organisation]. A characteristic of all these publishers is that they usually sell their inventory directly to advertisers, as well as focusing on the value of their content, and the context it provides for advertisers, when they sell.
comScore then took 15 large brand display and video ad campaigns for a variety of categories and industries. Some things all of these campaigns had in common were: they were all large enough in terms of impressions, they had run in both DCN (on a sample of 28 members) and non-DCN publishers — or both premium publishers and non-premium publishers –, and had over 400 total survey respondents (in order to measure brand lift significantly).
The main finding of the study is that premium publishers drove 67% higher brand lift. In mid-funnel metrics (engagement) this was even higher, with a 3x higher brand lift. In other words, according to these numbers, advertising on premium publishers is particularly effective when the goal is to improve how consumers react to a brand, and how they feel about it (mid-funnel), right after “awareness” and right before “sales conversions”.
So, what is it that drives premium publisher effectiveness? According to this analysis, first of all, the premium brands differed from others in two central metrics: higher viewability rates and lower levels of invalid traffic.
Better viewability, however, is only part of the story. Although viewability for premium media was 11% higher, this does not seem enough to account for the big 67% increase in brand lift. This is where the ‘halo effect’ comes in: that extra value that premium publishers provide. In one word, context. The question here was: to what extent was this higher effectiveness driven by the context in which an ad is seen?
How can we measure the halo effect? Researchers at comScore attempt to do this by factoring out the numbers of the viewability effect and calculating the remaining impact — that extra boost — in relation to the overall effectiveness. What numbers show is that this halo effect actually accounts for more than 75% of the improvement in brand lift.
Explaining exactly how the ‘halo effect’ works is certainly a matter of debate. And an important one, since it is the key reason that advertising in premium publishers is more effective than advertising in other publishers.
So, what makes the ‘halo’? We would suggest it’s largely driven by the quality of the editorial content on premium publishers’ sites. Content that makes their audiences particularly loyal and engaged.
But of course there might be other explanations too. What do you think? Be sure to continue the debate and comment on what you think drives the halo effect on premium publisher sites below. We are listening (…and reading).
You can read the original study by comScore here.