Premium environments and industry support will future-proof digital ads
A view from Robin O’Neill

Premium environments and industry support will future-proof digital ads

Digital advertising seen in a premium environment has far greater impact, but we need wider industry collaboration to make this the norm.

The advertising industry has a long-held belief that there is a positive correlation between the quality of the environment in which a clients’ ads are delivered and the impact on brand metrics.

With the advent of digital, one-to-one advertising, some have questioned the continuing relevance of context. Does the environment matter if your advertising knows where the consumer is in their purchase journey and the message is relevant to that context?  

At GroupM we’ve always believed that context and quality editorial environments matter. Around a year ago, we agreed to collaborate with Newsworks to examine the truth of this belief. 

With more than 400 million exposures, our research investigated 84 digital advertising campaigns across nine months in all categories, generating more than 80,000 survey responses. Everything was independently tracked and measured, through Meetrics and Cint, including brand awareness, ad recall, brand perception and recommendation intent.

Our aim was to identify the most positive impacts on digital ad campaigns and demonstrate the effect of premium inventory, delivered in a brand safe environment.

Defining quality environments and delivery

At GroupM, our starting position has always been that advertisers should only invest where digital advertising has a real opportunity to be seen, by a real person, within the right target audience, in an appropriate editorial environment and respecting all data protection regulations. 

The research revealed that 82% of ads in the premium inventory were seen, compared with 52% on the open exchange, which demonstrates a stark contrast between the two inventory sources. If you are buying exchange inventory, then the best you can hope for is that one in every three ads bought is seen and measurable. 

The advertising industry has reached a point where some tech platforms may try to tell you that seeing a single pixel of an ad for a fraction of a second can deliver half the impact of an ad viewed in full. These claims, in my opinion, simply do not stack up and they suit tech platforms, user generated content and environments where users are not fully engaged. In some cases, this can be a page scroll that is as tall as the Empire State Building, filled with ads, hardly any of which are actually seen, but all of which are paid for. 

Consumers’ attention may be more difficult to hold, but if you are not delivering a message, then how can it have any impact? 

We wouldn’t pay for half a poster on a billboard or a TV ad break playing only the first two seconds of a 30-second creative execution. If we were expected to pay in full in these instances, there would be uproar across the industry, yet in the digital world we often pay. 

The research also ascertained that an ad in a premium environment is 42% more likely to be delivered fully in view, 63% more likely to be delivered over 50% in view, 58% more likely to be in view for over five seconds, 98% more likely to be delivered above the fold and if not, then 165% more likely to be brought into view by the user.

All good and positive stats, I’m sure you’ll agree, but all of this only actually matters if this delivers a positive impact on a client’s brand metrics. 

Viewability matters

The research revealed that fully-in-view ads delivered a 7% uplift in brand awareness and 8% on recall against ads that were not fully in view. If an ad was in view for at least five seconds, the uplift was 6% and 8% respectively.

Above-the-fold versus below-the-fold supplied an uplift of 5% on brand awareness and 14% on ad recall. The best brand tracking uplifts came from ads that were 100% in view for more than five seconds, delivered above the fold on a page, and in view for 30 seconds or more. 

Uplifts on premium inventory were greater than the exchange on all measured categories. They were 10% better on brand awareness, nearly 20% for ad recall, 10% for brand perception and recommendations, which is double-digit uplift across all the metrics measured.

The future of digital advertising 

Our vision for the future is to have the ability to deliver our clients’ campaigns in the highest quality environment with efficient and technically advanced delivery platforms. In my opinion, this will only come through industry collaboration.

GroupM has been working with all the news brands over the past year to deliver a unified audience at scale, which we are just starting to test, and I personally believe that initiatives like this, and the recently announced Ozone project, are the key to our shared success. 

We are calling on the premium publishers, companies that create content, that employ professionally trained and qualified journalists, that operate under strict regulation for what can and cannot be published, to join together and provide viable alternative ways of transacting for us and our clients.

We need this delivery to be efficient. We will need planning tools, dashboards and the ability to delivery programmatically to unified audiences, and to do that we will need the support of the news brands. 

It’s a vision we have long held at GroupM, and I hope that this research helps us to further build the case for the value of premium inventory. Most importantly, I believe this will be a key factor in the continued growth and success for everyone working in the digital advertising arena. 

Robin O’Neill is managing director of Digital Trading at Group M UK

To find out more about the research visit