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A Sense of Place: Why Environments Matter Explores Why Consumers Respond to Brand Advertising Differently Across Online Environments

June 30, 2010 | By Research Team—DCN

NEW YORK, NY — June 15, 2010 — The Online Publishers Association (OPA) today released a new research study, “A Sense of Place: Why Environments Matter,” that will be unveiled during the 2010 Eyes on the Internet tour kicking off in the Detroit area on June 16th at The Townsend Hotel. During this six city tour, the OPA will update executives in the advertising, marketing and publishing communities on its most recent research.

This research, conducted by Harris Interactive, sought to understand how consumers perceive content in different online environments, and whether these perceptions impact advertising receptivity and consumer response. Perceptions and responses in three key online environments were assessed: 1) media properties (e.g., ESPN.com, iVillage, NYTimes.com, Wall Street Journal Digital Network; 2) portal channels (e.g., AOL News, MSN Money, Yahoo Sports) and 3) social networks (Facebook, MySpace).

“A Sense of Place” features quantitative and qualitative analysis, including an online survey of 2,910 US adult consumers, in order to measure opinions about content and advertising, and consumer perceptions of the brands advertised within these environments. OPA and Harris ran statistical correlations to understand whether there is a relationship between how content is perceived in these environments and how advertisers are received and responded to. Correlations measure the strength of the relationship between two variables, and can range from -1 to +1, with zero being no relationship. The results of the correlations are positive and strong, indicating that there is a relationship between how content is perceived and how advertisers are received.

Topline Findings

  • Sites with relevant content correlate strongly with audiences being loyal to these sites (a correlation score of .445)
  • Sites with trusted content correlates strongly with the sites’ advertisers being perceived as reputable (a correlation score of .388)
  • Brands perceived as relevant are more likely to have a response to their online ads (a correlation score of .353)
  • Among respondents who have purchased brands as a result of online advertising, 80% describe themselves as having a strong, positive emotional connection to the sites where the ads ran.

“The goal of our research was to help brand marketers better understand why consumers receive and respond to online brand advertising differently depending on the content environment in which the message appears,” said Pam Horan, OPA president. “Our findings show that site destination matters as trust and relevant content are perceived differently across content environments. This study concludes that consumers perceive and take action differently depending on where the advertiser’s message appears.”

Environment-specific findings include:

  • The research results indicate that the three environments generated different consumer perceptions and responsiveness to the content and advertisers. For example,
  • Consumers are more likely to trust content on media sites (72%) than portal channels (60%) and social media (23%)
  • Audiences on media sites are significantly more likely to believe these sites’ advertisers are high quality and reputable (24%), compared to portal channels (20%) and social media (8%)
  • People who recall purchasing from a site’s advertisers are significantly more likely to do so from media sites (8%) than portal channels (5%) or social media (3%)
  • Those loyal to media sites are more likely to purchase from advertisers on these sites (15%) than portal loyalists or social media loyalists (8% and 4% respectively)

“The study clearly concludes that online media proprieties offer advertisers a distinct brand halo effect for their advertising messages,” continued Horan.

Follow-on one-on-one interviews were conducted with respondents who were frequent visitors to all three environments to further assess respondents’ opinions about the sites they visit and their reactions to online advertising. Video clips from these interviews will be featured during the Eyes on the Internet tour.

To download the report, please click here.

The 2010 Eyes on the Internet tour is sponsored nationally by Comcast Digital Entertainment and MTV Networks Digital and will take place from 8:00 AM-10:00 AM on the following dates:

June 16th; Detroit area at The Townsend Hotel
June 17th; Chicago at theWit Hotel
June 23rd; Atlanta at The Grand Hyatt
June 24th; New York at New World Stages
June 29th; San Francisco at The St. Regis Hotel
June 30th; Los Angeles at The Regent Beverly Wilshire
A full copy of “A Sense of Place: Why Environments Matter,” is available at tour’s end beginning June 30th at: www.online-publishers.org.


This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive between March 11 and April 19, 2010, among 2,910 adults ages 18 and older who use the Internet at least once per week, who visit one or more of the study’s OPA, Portal Channel or Social media sites at least several times a month and who are not employed in a competitive industry such as advertising, market research or the media. These 2,910 adults evaluated 63 sites broken down as 42 OPA sites, 19 Portal Channel sites and 2 Social Media sites. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

About the OPA

Founded in June 2001, the Online Publishers Association is an industry trade organization whose mission is to advance the interests of high-quality online publishers before the advertising community, the press, the government and the public. Members of OPA represent the standards in Internet publishing with respect to editorial quality and integrity, credibility and accountability. OPA’s membership has an unduplicated audience of 172.5 million unique visitors or 83% reach of the U.S. online population (comScore Media Metrix, January 2010). For more information, go to www.online-publishers.org.

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.