Why investing in quality is more important than ever

No advertiser intends to create something subpar, so why are so many consumers disappointed by online ads? Andrew Burke, Managing Director, APAC and Growth Markets at Outbrain, thinks all advertisers should rethink the way they look at quality advertising.

“Quality is not an act. It is a habit.”

So said Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher who lived roughly 2,400 years ago. Clearly he had no inkling of the open web, digital advertising or third-party cookies, but his words have echoed through millennia for a reason – he’s right.

Quality is something that has to be actively worked towards and maintained. This is something Outbrain recognised when it was founded almost 15 years ago, and it is one of our key pillars. We launched with the intention of making the open web a better place for everyone, and of improving the relationship between publishers, advertisers and consumers. 

Quality advertising has become essential to the way we work with publishers, advertisers and consumers, and is an increasingly critical issue for everyone. Companies have become frustrated with the lack of control over where their ads are appearing, recognising the risk this poses to their brand safety. Additionally, recent research has found that online content that relies too heavily on misleading headlines has dropped in effectiveness.

The marketing and advertising industry is taking a hard look at itself following the news that Google is phasing out third-party cookies. That means it’s the perfect time to re-evaluate how you think about quality in your advertising.

Quality versus quantity

The average person is estimated to encounter between 6,000 to 10,000 ads every single day. Advertisers are competing with more companies than ever, across more channels than ever, and cutting through the noise is now of paramount importance.

Putting in the effort to create high-quality, interesting and valuable online experiences will provide the greatest rewards when it comes to impressing your consumers.

Outbrain recently launched QualityRating, which uses a real time rating process to ensure the quality of advertising. With this new tool, Outbrain can ensure only quality ads will be shown on premium publishers. These ads will also be prioritised when it comes to engaging with the right audience for that brand. Recent research we conducted found that 44% of viewers trust an ad viewed on a premium publisher site.

Our CEO Yaron Galai recently spoke to AdExchanger on how Outbrain focuses on quality for both advertisers and consumers, explaining, “We now have two buckets of algorithms. One that focuses on ROAS [Return On Ad Spend] and optimising for advertisers, and another bucket focused on engagement and quality optimising for the user.” 

It’s never been harder to measure what consumers perceive as quality, leading to a misalignment of what advertisers deliver and what consumers prefer. 

QualityRating is already working to solve this mismatch of priorities, and blocked 6,360 ads in June because they didn’t reach our standards.

QualityRating shows there are new ways to implement quality in advertising. Being prepared to innovate in order to match the preferences of your consumer will help your ad stand out from all the rest.

Staying on target

KPIs are essential to most businesses; they drive results, help reveal spending patterns and provide the opportunity to adjust course or correct mistakes. In the advertising and marketing industry, there’s a whole suite of KPIs to keep top of mind; Return On Investment, Click Through Rate, Customer Acquisition Cost, traffic to lead ratios, conversation rates…the list goes on and on.

It’s essential to revisit the KPIs you’re tracking and ensure they’re best suited to your consumers and your business goals. Advertisers often place too high a value on user engagement, delivering ads which fail to provide the “nutritional” value consumers expect. 

This is influenced by an industry-wide misunderstanding around what customers value, and what interests them. After all, consumers don’t care about your KPIs – they’re looking to be entertained, informed, or both, by the content they’re consuming.

The industry has also failed to incentivise advertisers to improve their ads for consumers. It’s another indication that current KPIs used by advertisers don’t reflect true consumer interests or values.

When Outbrain created the QualityRating system, we improved existing algorithms to optimise consumer value, leveraging both artificial intelligence and machine learning. We found that when fully implemented, ads that receive a high QualityRating will deliver higher Return On Advertising Spend (ROAS) for those advertisers. 

This shows you cannot neglect the importance of quality on your KPIs – ultimately, it provides the best value for your money, and should provide your consumers with the best value for their interest.

It’s easy to fall back into old habits, especially if they’re the only ones you’ve ever known. But the marketing and advertising industry has always been capable of great change, which has only been reinforced over the course of the pandemic.

After all, if Aristotle understood the value of quality 2,400 years ago, why can’t we?

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