Advertisers looking to maximize the impact of their Web advertising should focus on branded content sites, according to a study released by the Online Publishers Association.
The study, titled "Improving Ad Performance Online: The Impact of Advertising on Branded Content Sites," found that marketers who advertised on branded content sites experienced much higher brand favorability and intent to purchase scores than those who advertised on portals and other kinds of Web sites, as well as through ad networks. The study used Dynamic Logic's MarketNorms database to gauge the impact of advertising across a variety of different Web environments.
"There's been a lot of discussion about the value of different environments online, but there haven't been a lot of numbers put against it to clearly demonstrate what environments are producing the best results for marketers," said Pam Horam, president of OPA. "So we took the best industry standard -- a tool that's already being used by agencies to measure the impact of branding -- and the results clearly demonstrate that environment absolutely matters."
The MarketNorms tool evaluates ad effectiveness based on 43 different metrics, and according to the study, ads on branded content sites performed better on 41 of those measurements. For brand favorability, ads on branded content sites scored 29 percent higher than average; for purchase intent, they scored 20 percent higher.
Those numbers were even higher when narrowed to 18- to 34-year-old and affluent audiences. Consumers aged 18 to 34 and those with household income exceeding $75,000 a year were both 33 percent more likely to form favorable opinions about ads on branded content sites. Affluent audiences were 55 percent more likely to "get the brand's message," the report said.
Horan credited the "halo effect" for the higher numbers, saying brands that associated themselves with some form of entertainment value earned goodwill from ad-weary consumers.
"There is so much discussion right now about the role of transparency, and that ultimately reflects on your brand," she said. "This research has demonstrated that advertisers are getting better results for their brands by being in clean, well-lit environments."
The study focused on the results for branded content sites, which performed better for consumers making initial brand connections. But Horan said that other forms of sites, such as portals, performed well for other functions further down the marketing chain.
"Nearly all forms of online media have an important role to play throughout the purchase 'funnel,'" she said. "But branded content sites have a notably greater impact at the points where consumers are establishing brand preference and making purchase decisions.
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
March 19, 2014