• David Chavern
  • 07.19.2016

The digital realm is the future of publishing – and it is certainly the place where most innovation and forward-thinking is happening right now.  But that doesn’t mean it is completely free of lazy or conventional thinking.  After all, we still have banner ads that could have been designed by our great-grandfathers and pre-roll videos in commercial TV formats.

A few months ago, I took-on the tired trope that “digital ad inventory is infinite.”  In that piece, I argued that ads are only as good as the amount of people’s time and attention – and that time and attention are most certainly not infinite.  Moreover, I just didn’t believe the idea that context doesn’t matter, or that ads on premium news sites are no more valuable than those on long-tail, click bait sites.

We now have real evidence of the importance of context and hopefully, we can finally kill the idea that the identity of the consumer – and not where you reach that consumer – is the only thing that matters.  ComScore recently published a study, “The Halo Effect: How Advertising on Premium Publishers Drives Higher Ad Effectiveness,” which clearly and consistently shows that ads on premium content sites are significantly and consistently more valuable and effective than ads on non-premium sites.  Moreover, the effect was evident through all three stages of the marketing funnel (Awareness-Consideration-Decision), with the most impact being in Mid-Funnel (Consideration, Favorability, Intent to Recommend).  Overall, display ads on premium publisher sites had, on average, 67 percent higher brand lift than non-premium sites and were three times more effective in driving Mid-Funnel brand lift metrics.

Part of this has to do with the fact that ads on premium sites are more viewable: The sites are technically better and the amount of fraudulent traffic is much lower.  But it turns out that most of the positive impact (51 percent) is the result of a “halo effect” from an ad being seen in context with high quality content.  In other words, it does matter – a lot – whether a consumer is viewing an ad on a high-quality news site or “50 Celebrity Beach Bodies”.  Advertisers can chase singular consumers, but how those consumers engage ads changes from one type of site to another.

So digital ad inventory is not infinite, and context matters a lot.  In this regard, I think we are slowly getting closer to the understanding that the digital ad environment could be better, more powerful and much more lucrative for both advertisers and publishers than current experience would suggest. But to get there, we need to get away from ads that are creatively derivative of print and TV and develop ad messages that onlywork in digital.  After all, we don’t run print ads on TV, or TV ads on the radio.  Why shouldn’t the digital realm be treated differently than other media?



David Chavern serves as President & CEO of the News Media Alliance. Chavern has built a career spanning 30 years in executive strategic and operational roles, and most recently completed a decade-long tenure at the United States Chamber of Commerce.