Advertising alongside intense content found safe in quality news environments

Advertising alongside intense content found safe in quality news environments

Reach Solutions has released a study which demonstrates how co-location of “intense” or “hard-hitting” content with advertisements has no negative impact on the advertiser as long as it is in a quality news environment.

The research, released today, suggests that trusted news brands offer a safe environment for brands to advertise without associated emotions from the content transferring to a co-located advertisement.

Conducted through a forced exposure study with a nationally representative sample of 4500 UK adults, Reach Solutions tested the impact of different types of news brand ‘safety’ or content intensity (low, medium and high) on the brands advertising alongside them.

The study revealed that emotional responses to the content itself were closely aligned with the content intensity, but the emotions did not transfer to the co-located advertisement or brand.

Reach Solutions’ insight manager Sarah Frost said: “While online regulation is a rightful concern, advertising is equally effective when shown next to content that would normally be blocked as long as it is in a trusted news environment.”

To conduct the study, Reach Solutions created a website called Circulate to compare the reaction consumers had against Reach’s news brand websites with exactly the same content and associated advertisements.

Compared to emotions elicited by an ‘unsafe’ story in the Reach brands environment, advertisements next to the identical story in Circulate prompted negative emotions towards both the environment and the advertiser brands which were twice as high.

This result also transferred to advertiser brands – those who saw the ads on Reach news brand websites showed an 18% uplift in consideration and a 25% uplift in likelihood to recommend.

Andrew Tenzer, director of market insights and brand strategy said: “Quality environments matter just as much, if not more so, when it comes to brand safety. Content intensity does not have a negative impact on brand perception on trusted news sites.”

Authors argue that brand safety concerns originated on social media and UGC video websites, and while the issue remains a problem for advertisers on these websites, it does not extend to the wider digital publishing world.

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This comes at a time when digital advertising restrictions blocking ‘unsafe’ content on the websites of digital publishers has led to articles being incorrectly blocked, despite being perfectly safe and inoffensive, the authors explained. 

‘Blocklists’ can impact advertising spend, and in the summer of 2020, UK news publishers rallied together to ask advertisers to support journalism during the Covid-19 pandemic to help prevent the industry losing significant potential revenue. 

While work is underway to create a solution to the keyword-blocking conundrum, which is draining publishers of advertising revenues, regulation of the digital world is a long-term and ever-evolving problem as brand safety continues to be a concern for advertisers.

The report argues that while brands are right to be worried about where their advertising appears, consumer concern is limited to social media and UGC video sites because they know these platforms have little regulation.

“UK consumers are savvy and understand that not all digital platforms are created equal. They know that social media and UGC video sites have little regulation which is why they have a strong bond with trusted digital news sites,” explained Frost.

The report states that 73% expect to see unreliable content on social media and 43% on user generated content video sites, compared to only 19% on news brand websites.

The report also found that consumers were at least twice as likely to agree that brands advertising on news brand sites would be associated with values such as quality, trustworthiness and reliability compared to those advertising on social media or UGC video sites.

Piers North, chief revenue officer at Reach added: “Advertisers benefit from being in a curated ecosystem where they can maximise the opportunity to confidently advertise alongside all types of content due to the strength of the environment, rather than the wild west of user generated content video sites and social media”.

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