Responsibility For Ad Quality Differs Depending On Who You Ask

Ad quality can mean different things, depending on the person asked within an organization. With a range of intermediaries sitting between the publisher and the advertiser, it is not always clear which one is the most responsible and exactly what it means.

In a survey of 2,000 publishers, 47% pointed to a content recommendation vendor when asked who is most responsible for ad quality. Some 34% believe that the publisher is most responsible. The remaining 19% believe that advertisers are most responsible, according to data released Wednesday.

GeoEdge, which aims to stop bad ads from reaching publishers and supply partners, and WhizzCo, a native advertising platform, partnered to better understand the problems facing publishers around ad quality in content recommendation.

Content recommendation historically had a reputation of serving ads using a grid of thumbnails and captions to drive traffic to other sites and webpages with low quality links and articles. They often focused on reverse aging skin treatments, miracle cures, and celebrity gossip.

The findings from the study, released Wednesday, highlight how publishers address challenges of quality content recommendation, and highlight the strategies being used to solve the challenges.

Eighty-one percent of the respondents to the survey — Publishers: Managing Ad Quality in Content Recommendation Publisher Survey Report 2022 — said they are concerned that poor ad quality will turn away users. The survey, conducted in-house and fielded between July 1 and December 31, 2022, polled publishers using content-recommendation ads for monetization.

For publishers, according to the report, ad quality does not begin and end with the advertisement. When publishers were asked to cite whether the quality of the content advertised or the safety of the landing page were more important, 19% of publishers said that “the content advertised” was more important, while 16% felt that “the safety of the landing page” was more important. Some 65% said both are equally important.

Ad quality and content must be considered equally important, regardless of whether it involves the content on the landing page or the content running next to the ad.

When publishers were asked whether they had restructured their content to make it more appealing to advertisers and ad platforms, 81% said they had restructured their content. Some 45% said they changed the layout of their web pages, while 19.5% made editorial policy changes, and 16% added new advertiser-friendly content sections.

While some publishers tend to blame content-recommendation vendors for ad quality, the study points to the ad-serving selection process in content recommendation. Eighty-five percent of digital ads appearing on a publisher’s website are selected as a result of a real-time programmatic auction where advertisers bid to serve their ad to a specific user now arriving on the website.

The ad selection is at the vendor’s discretion when it comes to content-recommendation ads.

There are no programmatic auctions in content recommendation. The vendor decides which ads to serve in each ad slot without relaying the bids of all interested advertisers. The publisher only knows the price being paid by the ad that ran in the content recommendation widgets.

Although 47% of publishers hold content-recommendation vendors most responsible for ad quality, publishers' ad ops teams still need to address the issue. Fifty-three percent of publishers responding to the survey said their ad ops teams have to address any issues related to poor ad quality from users.

To increase time spent onsite and promote greater user engagement, 65% of the surveyed publishers include content recirculation of their original content in the content-recommendation units.

This means that one of the four or six links in the content-recommendation ad unit will lead to an article from that publisher. Content recirculation -- where publishers offer links to their own content -- is a common and effective tactic in increasing time spent onsite, according to the data. Other tactics used by surveyed publishers to increase onsite engagement include adding polls at 29%, and trivia at 13%.

When publishers were asked about their preferred content-recommendation business models, 44% preferred a hybrid combination of revenue share and fixed price. Among the remaining publisher respondents, 34% preferred revenue-share agreements, while 22% preferred fixed contracts.

Publishers are willing to forego ad revenue to attract higher-quality content-recommendation advertisers despite the monetization challenges they face. Some 60% said they are willing to forego revenue, 15% are willing to forego between 16% and 30% of revenue, and 5% are willing to forego more than 30% of their revenue to attract higher-quality advertisers.

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