The relationship a reader has with a publisher has far more impact on the effectiveness of online ads than the surrounding editorial content, which suggests concerns around brand safety may be misunderstood, according to a new study.

Research by ad tech company Inskin Media compared both the conscious and subconscious reactions of over 4,000 consumers who were served publisher branded and non-publisher branded ads on websites.

The study revealed that ads on publisher-branded sites were much more effective, increasing the consideration for advertisers by 60% compared to ads without publisher branding, while there was no pattern to suggest that editorial content impacts the ad – whether positive or negative or similar in theme to the ad.

Among readers with a closer relationship to publishers, advertiser consideration was 152% higher than those who saw the same ads on websites without publisher branding. Exploring user emotions and how closely they felt to a brand, advertiser “warmth” (33%), “empathy” (20%) and “proximity” (19%) were all higher among regular readers.

“The relationship a publisher has with a visitor can have a catalytic effect in terms of boosting the effectiveness of the ads it carries, which reveals an important lesson,” said Steve Doyle, CCO at Inskin Media.

“It shows that if online publishers pay more consideration to the reader experience, particularly in regards to advertising, the ads will be more effective, so they can charge a higher premium while carrying less advertising – a virtuous circle,” he added.  

Brand safety

When it comes to brand safety, Doyle highlighted from the findings that this is “considerably more complex” than the industry might like to admit; “For example, we know brand safety is a ‘PR’ issue but what effect does it actually have on how readers actually perceive the brand and act on it?”

The research follows a year in which digital display advertising has come under heavy fire, with ads from some of the world’s leading brands appearing on inappropriate sites promoting extremist content. However, the findings suggest advertiser’s have more to consider than content when selecting ad inventory and should look deeper into the relationship a publisher has with its readers.

“Without a doubt, more research in this area is required to help marketers devise meaningful and effective brand safety policies, as the area is still a relative unknown,” Doyle concluded.