July 18, 2017

Advertising Chart: How digital ad placement strategy affects customer response


Fake news rhetoric isn’t just a political issue; it’s an advertising one as well.

Because a purchase, and really any conversion action, is a leap of faith. And that leap of faith requires trust.

Read on to see the latest data about how this issue impacts digital advertising you place on news sites, search engines and social media.

(As seen in the MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week newsletter. Click to get a free subscription to the latest research and case studies from MarketingSherpa.)

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and Dow Jones conducted a quantitative survey with 2,000 consumers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, and (among other questions) asked them …

Do you respond better to ads that are delivered directly to you on trusted news sites versus those that appear on social media, search or fake news channels?

Let’s take a quick look at the data and then read on for an analysis to help you put this discovery into action in your own marketing initiatives.

F for Fake

Liz Miller, Senior vice president, Marketing at the CMO Council, said:

Today’s consumer is being bombarded with everything from fake news to news about fake news to ads about news about fake news. It is exhausting. But it is driving consumers to make more intentional decisions about the online destinations where they seek out news, trusted advice and content. It narrows the field for us marketers as we look to align our branding dollars with our customer-experience mandates, necessitating that our ads appear in those places of most value to our customers and that most closely align with their lives and their context.

According to Google Trends, interest in the term “fake news” is a relatively recent phenomenon and started spiking in November 2016.

In addition, there is a perception of a change over time in media consumption — from getting information mostly from a newspaper of record (e.g., The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, the local newspaper, etc.) to getting information from a plethora of channels (ranging from investigative journalism in The New York Times to a politically-laced diatribe from your uncle on Facebook).

Based on that, I would assume there would be significant differences in how various age groups perceive trust in news sites and how they perceive advertising. But, here’s what surprised me when I asked CMO Council to break out the data by age and send it over to me …

… there weren’t.

Surprisingly, trusted news sites have the same positive effect on ad response for all age groups

According to CMO Council’s data, roughly two-thirds (64%) of consumers said they respond better to ads on trusted news sites versus ads that appear on social media, search or fake news channels.

And, that number is fairly consistent across the board, with only a slight increase among older consumers — 62-63% of consumers younger than 55 said they respond better to ads on trusted news sites, while 68% of consumers 55 and up said the same.

In addition, the CMO Council also discovered:

  • Three-quarters (75%) of consumers are worried about the growing number of fake or biased news sites on the internet that try to influence public opinion or misrepresent facts, history or current events
  • This concern is causing 60% of people to consume more content from trusted, well-known news sources and established media channels
  • And the majority of consumers have negative feelings toward brands that placed advertising near or alongside content or through media outlets they found objectionable, insulting or hurtful, with 37% saying it changed the way they think of the brand when making a purchase decision, 11% going so far as saying they will boycott or not do business with that brand, and 9% who will be vocal and complain or raise issues about it.

Efficiency at the expense of strategy is no virtue

“Renew the commitment to advertising placements as a matter of strategy, versus blind automation,” Miller advised.

Technology has made many marketing tasks quicker, easier and more streamlined. However, we must always remember that the task itself must have the right purpose. And, in ad placement, that purpose isn’t merely to place ads that get clicks cheaply and efficiently.

That purpose is to build a trusting relationship with a customer in a way that ultimately leads them to come to the conclusion that your desired conversion goal is in their best interests.

“There is a time and a place for innovations like programmatic and ad exchanges to take our investments to new heights of efficiency and effectiveness. Then there is a time to really demand transparency to have absolute knowledge that our investments are meeting the expectations of our customers,” Miller said.

She advised marketers to ask the hard questions and ask them of their agency partners as well.

“Don’t accept the answer, ‘Oh well, we didn’t know that’s where it would appear, but at least it reached the right demographic’ as an answer, because our consumer is pretty clear when 88% say a negative advertising experience may make them think differently about the brand or choose to NOT do business with that brand,” she said.

Every purchase begins with trust

Programmatic ad buying might seem like a very efficient way to handle your media spend.

However, if that programmatic ad ends up on a fake news site, what impact does that have on the trust potential customers now have in your brand?  It is a very difficult (and expensive) metric to measure. Much more difficult than cost-per-click, is the cost to the brand when people don’t click because they have become alienated.

As a student in the University of Florida/MECLABS Institute Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate program (from the parent research institute of MarketingSherpa), I’ve been reading The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow. It’s an excellent read that gives a revealing look at the true math behind many business (and even personal life) decisions.

In the book, Mlodinow states, “If it is easy to fall victim to expectations, it is also easy to exploit them … marketers also know this and design ad campaigns to create and then exploit our expectations.” (Mlodinow, 2008, p. 214)

He uses examples like Stephen King and Bruce Willis, arguing that there are many talented authors and writers you’ve never heard of. But a big reason these two are successful is due to random events that plucked them, instead of one of the other talents, out of obscurity.

And, because of this, it is our expectation that the next Stephen King book will be good. As an example, when Stephen King published a book under a pseudonym, it didn’t sell nearly as well … until people figured out what he was doing.

Mlodinow may be correct that an author you’ve never heard of may write a better book than Stephen King, and you only know of Stephen King because of random events that have thrust him into the spotlight. That is the math behind randomness.

However, from a marketing perspective, I would argue this is an example of brand expectations.

The quality of Stephen King’s previous work has created a brand expectation. In addition to that, we perceive Stephen King’s work to be better than another author’s work because we go into reading the book with that expectation.

This is why ad placement can be so killer to purchases over time. It’s not only your actual product experience that affects brand expectations, but the subliminal and subconscious linkages customers create in their minds between your brand and surrounding messages that affect their perception.

What you are measuring might indicate effectiveness, but what you aren’t measuring could be slowly killing your brand

Let’s say you’re getting clicks on your ads. Even sales. And it’s at a good cost-per-click or acquisition.

But, what you aren’t tracking is the cost of the potential customers who aren’t clicking and now see your brand in a new light — the long, slow degradation of brand expectation from inappropriate ad placement.

“Far too often we strategize customer-first but then execute creative-first or budget-first. But, if we really are going to act out our customer-first marketing strategies, we will need to make more intentional choices about where our advertising appears and not just focus on what that advertising looks like,” Miller concluded.

Related resources

How Brands Annoy Fans: The Impact of Digital Advertising Experiences on Consumer Perceptions and Purchase Intent (via CMO Council)

Subscribe to MarketingSherpa to get the latest case studies and data on [topic, e.g. email] along with updates and promotions.

Four Ideas on Marketing to Digital Natives Versus Digital Immigrants

Personality-Matched Ads: How Hilton Worldwide Effectively Personalized Its Marketing Messages

Marketing Chart: Which advertising channels consumers trust most and least when making purchases

University of Florida/MECLABS Institute Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate program

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