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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

The role of ad quality in the post-trust era

February 11, 2022 | By Tobias Silber, CBO – GeoEdge @tobiassilber

Publishers have long understood that user experience and monetization go hand in hand. So it only makes sense to examine the impact of ad quality on experience and, by extension, on monetization.

According to our research, more than three-quarters of publishers (76%) say user experience on their sites has been impacted by ad quality challenges. What’s more, 66% say poor ad quality has affected their revenue. It’s clear that user experience and ad experiences are one and the same in the eyes of the audience. So why should digital publishers see it any differently? 

Maintaining user trust in a post-trust-era 

Few publishers are spared the burden of poor ad quality, hitting them where it hurts most—audience trust. Digital advertising is often characterized by clickbait, as well as deceptive and offensive advertising. These days, the audience sits at the most vulnerable position in advertising as digital scams and fraud run rampant. But they are also the most powerful element in the digital ad ecosystem, determining the success or failure of a publisher’s business. 

Along with sensitive ad categories, publishers should be wary of ads touting misleading product offers, financial scams, and brand infringement. It may seem that programmatic monetization automatically translates into poor ad quality, but publishers should understand that there is a better alternative. Quality advertising can reinforce a positive user experience, benefit a publisher’s relationship with the audience, and serve as a differentiator within a crowded market.  

The first step is to acknowledge the need to shift your approach to one that puts the user first.

What it means to be a user-first publisher  

Implementing a user-first approach is vital to ensuring a positive experience and safeguarding programmatic as a strategic revenue channel. But not every publisher who says they take a user-first approach actually does. 

In 2022, publishers that want to differentiate themselves must offer a user experience that surpasses the standard—and user expectations—because audiences see bad ads as more than a red flag. Beyond being simply annoying, bad ads send a message that a publisher doesn’t value its users. In fact, nearly half of publishers claim that poor ad quality impacts the lifetime value of visitors to their sites. Our researchers found fewer than 10% of users who experience bad ads even let publishers know. The vast majority churn silently. They leave the site, end their subscription, and opt for the competition, leaving publishers wondering what went wrong. 

To uphold truth-in-advertising, bad ads cannot appear on the page in the first place. This is the only way to exceed audience expectations, ensure user protection, and maintain user trust. Our research revealed less than a quarter of publishers who serve programmatic ads claim they have total transparency regarding the ads that come through those channels. Unless programmatic platforms can reign in bad ads, scams will continue to plague publishers and their audiences. 

Making technology work for you and your audience 

Publishers are the obvious choice to determine brand suitability. They set the standard for ads that meet their site’s content and audience expectations. After all, publishers know their audiences best. To ensure a high-quality user experience, technology must be used to provide complete transparency and control for publishers. 

We found that a staggering 80% of publishers say brand suitability enhances audience trust and ensures confidence. Real-time tech should provide publishers maximum granularity enabling internal teams to define the standards for what is and isn’t allowed on their site. 

Publishers require dynamic, real-time tools that proactively ensure brand suitability standards across programmatic channels most susceptible to bad ads. Though it is important to remember that, while high standards for brand suitability can be maintained with technology, the technology itself must be reliable. 

Thinking forward (not one step back)

A user protection approach can’t simply involve putting out fires. A positive and trustworthy user experience is at the heart of audience loyalty—and it requires a proactive approach. 

Trust in advertising requires truth in advertising. To put users first, publishers cannot compromise on user protection. Publishers must synchronize their user protection strategy with their business objectives by using a technology-based ad quality strategy.

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