Premium Publishers Deliver More Bang for Your Ad Buck, Says comScore

Article ImageToday's online advertising environment is often seen as chaotic. Whether it's the ongoing struggle to squeeze digital dimes out of online advertising, the move toward programmatic placements, the increasing presence of ad blockers, or the plague of ad fraud, many publishers (and advertisers) are in over their heads. But a comScore report has some good news. According to "The Halo Effect: How Advertising on Premium Publishers Drives Higher Ad Effectiveness," "Premium publishers are more than 3x more effective in driving mid-funnel brand lift metrics, such as favorability, consideration and intent to recommend."

What exactly is a premium publisher? According to the comScore report, these outlets "have a direct relationship with the consumer and therefore are more likely to be household names. ..." However, in this case, the study stuck to evaluating "the branding effectiveness of digital display ads appearing on Digital Content Next (DCN) member sites compared to nonmember sites." Members include AP, Condé Nast, Bloomberg, ESPN, Forbes, and

Jason Kint, CEO of DCN, says, "Premium publishers are focused on both the trust of consumers and advertisers. They design their sites to maximize viewability and attention of both consumers and their advertisers. This includes enforcing tighter restrictions on ad technologies and partners to make ad serving as efficient as possible."

He adds, "It's also worth noting that ad fraud is another issue plaguing digital advertising. Our own earlier research, which we conducted with White Ops last year, makes it clear that-by definition-premium publishers see significantly less bot traffic than other types of content sites." That builds trust, which is important in this media-buying landscape.

According to the report, well-known media brands such as these premium publishers "tend to sell most of their inventory directly to advertisers and provide a context for their content that is more meaningful to their readers." As such, "comScore wanted to understand to what extent media quality mattered in driving advertising effectiveness. Is it true that ads appearing on premium publishers, all else being equal, performed better than on other inventory? And if it's true that premium inventory performs better, how much more valuable is it?"

Quite a bit, as it turns out.

To answer these questions, comScore compared metrics of "inventory quality and advertising effectiveness" for premium publishers to other publishers-looking at metrics such as brand lift results for "large brand display ad campaigns across a number of advertiser categories, including consumer packaged goods, household goods, auto, consumer electronics, and telecom." Furthermore, the study says, "The ad impressions included in this analysis ultimately ran on a representative sample of 28 of the 75 members listed on DCN's website."

"The Halo Effect" report highlights a few findings, including these two:

  • Premium publishers had 67% higher brand lift than non-DCN publishers
  • The success of premium publishers is driven, in part, by higher viewability rates

The findings reinforce something we already know: Viewability is an increasingly important aspect of the ?digital-advertising landscape. The Media Rating Council defines an ad as viewable when 50% or more of its pixels are in view for more than 1 second. Ad positioning is, perhaps, the most important key to viewability. Similar to search results, its important to have your ad appear near the top of the page-or "above the fold" in newspaper parlance-because, as the report puts it, "Since ads that aren't viewable by definition have no impact on their audience, sites with lower viewability rates dilute the overall effectiveness of impressions running on their site."

There's more to the "halo effect" than just being seen. In a post ("CMOs: Do You Know Where Your Ads Are? New Research Proves Why It Matters."), DCN's research director writes, "Importantly, the research finds that the primary driving force for the brand lift is the positive impact of the ‘halo effect' of the contextual environment in which an ad is seen." In other words, ads on trusted sites hold more sway with audiences. Or, as Kint puts it, "This research clearly demonstrates that a clean, well-lit environment and association with a premium experience and high-quality, trusted content lends trust to the advertisers' brands and helps achieve marketers' goals."

How, exactly, does one measure something as intangible as the halo effect? "By factoring out the viewability effect, we can properly isolate the value of the halo effect," explains the report. "Since overall effectiveness for DCN publishers was 67% higher, and inventory quality was 11% higher (50% divided by 45%), it implies that premium publishers drive 51% higher effectiveness due to the halo effect."

Think back to your own experiences on the web. We've all fallen for clickbait on social media, only to be spammed with ads and endless slideshows (which turn your mobile browser into molasses) until we finally just give up. Have you ever even considered clicking on one of those ads? Probably not. In fact, you were probably so busy trying to close the ads that you were blind to the message.

But what are premium publishers meant to take away from all of this? "I think the first takeaway is if you are a premium brand, there's an environment right now where you risk being commoditized," says Andrew Lipsman, VP of marketing and insights at comScore. He also advises that premium publishers take a look at their cost per mille (CPM) and make sure that they are being compensated for the value they are providing.

So what does the rest of the publishing world need to keep in mind when trying to compete with premium publishers? "Focus on building consumer trust in their brand and content," Kint advises. "Whether it's journalism, entertainment, or information, if the consumer is delighted by their experience, then it will lend value back to the advertisers who associate with it."