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67% consumers likely to engage with ads on trusted publisher sites: Contextual advertising promises better revenue and control

Content consumption has doubled during the pandemic. It is up from 3 hours 17 minutes per day, to 6 hours 59 minutes, according to a new report by media measurement company DoubleVerify. 

The growth happened across every content type and channel surveyed. Social platforms saw the biggest surge in consumption (48%) followed by digital news (47%). 

Source: Four Fundamental Shifts in Media and Advertising During 2020

The report, “Four Fundamental Shifts in Media and Advertising During 2020” is based on an in-depth study of changes in people’s digital habits during the pandemic. It’s based on responses of more than 10,000 consumers across France, Germany, Spain, the UK and the US.

Acceleration of subscription revenue growth

Readers worldwide are now placing increasing importance on trusted news sources. Around 24% have newly subscribed to a free publication to access trusted information in the last few months, the study found. 

In part, this is due to the increasing importance consumers place on keeping pace with the fast-evolving news cycle, and recognition of the need to avoid fake or inflammatory news. 

Four Fundamental Shifts in Media and Advertising During 2020

It has also led to an acceleration of subscription revenue growth, both within video streaming services and online media sectors (including newspapers and magazines), which have seen revenues grow between 9-14% YoY. 

The report notes that the changes in content consumption appear to be long-lasting. The majority of consumers have said they don’t expect to return to pre-pandemic levels of content consumption. 

Source: Four Fundamental Shifts in Media and Advertising During 2020

“Brand-content alignment constitutes competitive advantage”

The study looks into the implications of these changes in how readers perceive ads. It found that 67% of the consumers are likely to engage with an ad on the website of a publisher they know and trust. 

Other factors like brand-content alignment are also influential. 41% of the respondents said that it’s appropriate for healthcare brands to advertise beside content related to the pandemic, compared to 18% who said the same for travel brands. 

“The imperative for brand suitability goes beyond COVID-19. Complex, rapid and international news cycles are the new normal in an increasingly global and connected world,” the report states. 

The growth in content consumption combined with the proliferation of devices and delivery modes presents a significant opportunity for brands. Brand-content alignment constitutes competitive advantage — in terms of brand loyalty and commercial outlook. 

Four Fundamental Shifts in Media and Advertising During 2020

44% tried a new brand after seeing relevantly placed ads

A key takeaway from looking at the big picture—including increasing data regulation and consumer privacy measures—is that contextual targeting will play an important role in advertising strategies.

This is underlined by the study’s finding where 69% of the respondents have said they are more likely to look at an ad that is relevant to the content they are viewing. And 44% say they have recently tried a new brand after seeing relevantly placed ads. 

Further, 55% of consumers say that seeing a brand advertised next to false or misleading content would negatively impact future purchase. The study also found that consumers are favorably disposed to ads on trusted news sites. 

Using contextual targeting segments enables brands to improve campaign performance by reaching consumers based on the relevance of the content they are consuming. This pinpoint precision also helps publishers monetize content, by potentially opening additional campaign scale and reach. 

Four Fundamental Shifts in Media and Advertising During 2020

“Publishers are supercharging contextual”

Many publishers are already using contextual data tools in smarter ways to better control (and boost) their ad revenues. They are pairing contextual data with existing first-party data identifiers such as CRM records or email addresses and creating lookalike audience segments for unknown audiences, Joe Root, Co-founder of data management platform Permutive told Digiday.

Publishers are supercharging contextual, call it contextual plus and they have the opportunity to use the data themselves rather than give it away for others to harvest.

Joe Root, Co-founder of data management platform Permutive

The New York Times has built five proprietary contextual ad products since 2018, reports journalist Lucinda Southern. She adds that last year the publisher ran 100 campaigns using at least one of these tools, now at any one time, 100 campaigns are running. And they have delivered remarkably—despite its overall ad sales declining 44% in the second quarter—The Times made as much revenue from its contextual-based products in the first half of 2020, as it did through all of 2019.

Dutch public broadcaster Nederlandse Publieke Omroep (NPO) switched to contextual targeting in January. It has seen its revenue increase in the following months despite the pandemic.

Revenue was higher by 62% compared to January 2019. February saw a 79% increase over the previous year. The growth continued across March (27%), April (9%), May (17%) and June (17%) as the pandemic spread across the world, shrinking digital ad revenues and pushing many countries towards a recession

Insider Inc. has built its own first-party data platform Sága which it calls ‘contextual on steroids’. One of Insider’s clients saw a performance lift of 11% over the preexisting campaign benchmarks after using the publisher’s first-party data in its campaign said Jana Meron, SVP of Programmatic and Data Strategy, Insider Inc.

“[This is] changing the conversation, now it’s about deeper, richer partnerships with advertisers and how we can work together to support the power of their audience.” 

Karen Eccles, Senior Director, Commercial Innovation at The Telegraph

“I think that contextual is fundamentally the future of web advertising, and what they’re doing at NPO is pretty much what every publisher’s going to end up having to do,” Aram Zucker-Scharff, Director for Ad Engineering, The Washington Post, told Wired.

“In a contextually targeted world, there’s a lot of advantages for publishers creating quality content, because that becomes what dictates where ad money is going to go on the web,” he concluded.