This article was originally published on DCN InContext on August 24, 2022.
The marriage of convenience between programmatic advertising and digital media is not over. Publishers must remain vigilant as deceptive, irrelevant ad experiences easily damage audience acquisition, retention, and engagement.
Credibility is the new currency
Trust is a crucial element in the user-publisher relationship. Daily run-ins with bad ads devalue publishers’ brands in the eyes of users. Online audiences have become increasingly wary of off-brand and unsafe ads, which makes them lose faith in publishers’ ability to ensure valuable experiences.
For incremental revenue, some publishers give up white space for a function that adds little value for audiences—and may remove value. More than three-quarters of publishers face ad quality challenges that impact user experience on their sites. Six out of 10 publishers reported that ad quality challenges have negatively impacted revenue. These ads frustrate users and reduce time spent reading content by 45%.
Clickbait is one of the most frustrating forms of advertising and 56% of publishers have identified clickbait ads on their sites. We identified the five most prevalent clickbait scams served through publishers’ websites: financial scams, misleading product offers, brand infringement, tech support scams, and forced browser notifications. It’s no surprise that ads like this drive audiences away.
If you’re not listening to your audience, someone else will
Not only are many ad experiences unsafe, they’ve also become less relevant because they’re based on guesswork. Publishers set their ad quality policies based on assumed audience preferences. However, assumptions don’t make for adequate quality control. Unfortunately, this means that publishers often serve ads and brands that are inappropriate for their audience, which leads to user churn and a tarnished reputation.
In the era of fake news and crumbling cookies, publishers must continually work to better understand audiences and maintain ongoing two-way communication. Since there’s no universal guide for what makes a “good” or “bad” ad, publishers must define what a bad ad looks like for their unique audience.
It’s time to implement new ways to listen to your audience. The idea of driving audience feedback isn’t new. It makes sense that in order to better engage your audiences you have to listen to what they want. To do so, publishers require a feedback loop and custom tech controls to maintain their standards.
Resist the impulse to paint audiences with a broad brush. A user-first approach lets you get specific about your audience’s ad quality preferences and close the feedback loop by allowing audiences to respond to bad ads directly. Publishers require audience feedback, without additional platforms intermediating. For example, AdChoices reports bad ads to Google and any other platform that serves the ads. Audience input creates a framework for consistently relevant and engaging ad experiences. This helps foster a sustainable, profitable ecosystem.
The sustainable feedback loop: Adapt to constant change
User-first publishers know what their audiences expect and take immediate action to eliminate unwanted ads. Allowing users to report poor experiences doesn’t just increase users’ trust in publishers’ brands. It also differentiates publishers from the competition, setting them apart as truly audience-centric.
Publishers should follow the following principles:
Eliminate guesswork by closing the feedback loop and learning which ads your users are unhappy with. Fine-tune ad quality policies based on user feedback. Customize and adapt ads to suit your audience as their preferences change. Learn to guide your calls to encourage audience interaction in real-time. As a rule, the more instanuous and simple the better. Create engaging ad experiences for each site. Each of your channels attracts a different audience and you should cater specifically to them.
Publishers, stop screaming, start listening
It’s nearly impossible to regain a user’s trust once the user has been shown an ad that contradicts the publisher’s tone, looks suspicious, or is malicious. This is especially true if the user clicks through to a misleading ad and gets slapped with an offensive site or deceptive scam. Listening to your audience is vital to the success of your long-term monetization strategy. But, listening takes time. Publishers don’t have to start from scratch, real-time ad quality tools eliminate the heavy lifting. When you start listening to users, what you learn will have immense benefits for long-term monetization.
Remember: Effective communication is a reciprocal process. You never learn anything by talking.