How Important is Environment to Online Advertising?

How_Important_is_Environment_to_Online_AdvertisingIt's the perennial online advertising conundrum for premium and luxury marketers - hand-pick the environment for your brand's advertising or opt for an RoI driven, but blind, approach.Both arguments have their merits but as demands on marketers grow to deliver demonstrable results, the lure of performance-driven advertising becomes ever more irrisistable.So 2 pieces of research from AOL and the AOP released last week make for interesting reading.AOL's study, which quizzed 1,200 consumers and was conducted in association with GfK NOP Media, found that environment was key in delivering the best engagement levels. Almost 1/3 (29%) of their respondents  said they would feel more positive about a brand if it was advertised on a site they trusted.  And once users felt they could trust a site, they were more likely to respond to advertising and buy the products advertised.AOL's research found 4 factors crucial in building trust amongst users - good quality information, emotional attachment, prominent user involvement and modernity. Websites that ticked these 4 boxes were more likely to be visited regularly, to enjoy higher levels of participation and sharing and to be more fertile environments for advertisers.The study by the AOP,  with a sample of 2,000 users and conducted in association with ComScore, shed greater light on which sites were more likely to be trusted and which weren't.Their research found that 62% of users were more likely to trust advertising on original content sites - classified by them as the sites of UK newspapers, UK commercial TV and radio, UK magazines and trade or business publications. 52% were found to 'trust' advertising on portals (e.g. MSN, Yahoo) and just 32% trusted advertising on social networks.In addition, 41% of the respondents said advertising on original content sites was more relevant to them and of high quality, compared with just 19% on portals and 18% on social networks. Where trust in an online environment could be demonstrated, site visits to the advertiser's brand site was increased by 37% on original content sites.Of course, advertising performance is not just based on trust in the environment - AOL's study also underlined the importance of relevancy to site content and quality of the advertising itself - but trust clearly plays a key part, and probably more so for premium-priced products.The problem with taking a purely RoI based approach to online advertising is that decisions can be taken based on only part of the picture.  As we've discussed before, a great part of the relevance of online ads is the impact they have post impression on brand preference and favourability - factors which can result in 'post impression' visits to the advertiser's website and factors which will be overlooked by taking a pure CTR or CPC based approach.Of course, part of the RoI calculation is based on investment, and costs are higher in known online environments then when bought blind, but these 2 studies would suggest that brands should be hand-picking their online environments based on their authority and relevance, just as they do in the offline world.

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