Ad Quality

Why Publishers Should Care About Ad Quality

Mobile advertising is a rapidly growing industry. With eMarketer tipping mobile ad spend to exceed $100 billion in 2016, the industry is clearly supporting publishers worldwide.

Amidst the gold rush, mobile advertising has not always been well regarded often because of ad quality. Low quality adverts that hog data and disrupt user experience have matched predictions that “mobile ads are going to get more annoying” in the future.
It’s therefore in the interests of publishers to pay more attention to the quality of the adverts that they display within their apps. By raising advertising quality across the industry, publishers should see an improvement in revenue performance and the reputation of mobile advertising.

Why We Tolerate Quality Adverts

Adverts can be annoying. Although we all understand they provide valuable revenues to support businesses creating content, we can probably all admit to skimming over an advert in a newspaper or changing the TV channel when the break comes on.

But while that’s true, we do, for the most part, tolerate advertising. Despite our occasional annoyance, advertising has become an integral part of media precisely because we tolerate being shown relevant adverts that cater to our interests.

To explain why that’s the case, it’s worth thinking about how one of the most established advertising formats became widely accepted by audiences. When we look at television advertising, it’s clear that adverts are accepted because they fit within a framework that ensures quality is rewarded on three grounds.

First, TV adverts are scheduled for natural breaks within or between programmes to minimise disruption. Second, a viewer chooses whether to interact with adverts or not – ensuring that those who do watch one are likely to be engaged. And third, the fact that viewers can walk away forces television advertisers to improve their ad quality.

These factors place the onus on the advertiser to create top quality adverts, target the right audience and acquire the perfect time slot to give them the greatest chance of success. And though it isn’t always perfect, the way television advertising is currently set ensures that the great adverts, such as Honda’s classic ‘Impossible Dream’ are as high quality as the programmes that they are shown between.

The Problems with Mobile Advertising

By contrast, mobile advertising is yet to find the right balance between quality and user enjoyment.

A recent report from eMarketer indicated that 55% of respondents in the UK found mobile advertising to be “generally annoying and disruptive,” whilst in Germany, only only 8% of respondents thought mobile advertising was a positive thing.

The key factor behind this discontent is simply the poor quality of mobile adverts. Compared to the three areas where TV advertising has excelled, mobile advertising has struggled to raise standards.

The first is the placement and format of the advert. Despite the creation of mobile friendly formats, intrusive banners and interstitials, that obscure the screen and break up UX, remain a staple of mobile advertising across apps and the mobile web.

Ad Quality - Low quality examples

Second, mobile adverts are often poorly targeted and end up being irrelevant to the user. Rather than personalising for their interests, mobile advertisers regularly reach out to loosely defined audiences. Low quality targeting increases the likelihood of irrelevance to the user. In turn this heightens the likelihood that they will switch off when they see an advert – diminishing its effectiveness.

Third and finally, mobile adverts are still seen as untrustworthy and, in some cases, dangerous to interact with. Defrauding mobile advertisers, for example, has become big business, with Digiday reporting in 2015 that 34% of programmatic traffic could be fraudulent and the practice of “click spamming” becoming increasingly commonplace. This decreases trust from both consumers and advertisers, casting a deep-seated doubt on the quality of mobile advertising.

While we are aware at an industry level that all these factors go beyond publishers alone, for the end user the publisher gets the blame for poor quality adverts.

A good example of this was a notorious blunder in the children’s game Talking Tom Cat. Monetising in part through in app purchases but also through adverts, the game hit the headlines when an advert for a payday loan company appeared in a banner at the bottom of the app.

Even though it’s hard to argue that the publisher was responsible for the blunder, it is nevertheless clear that the consumer believes the buck stops with them. And if they won’t take steps to up advert quality, then users will turn to ad blocking to ensure that their user experience isn’t disrupted by low quality adverts.

Upping the Quality

It’s up to publishers to focus on increasing the quality of mobile adverts across the board.

Fortunately for them, improving mobile advertising quality is getting easier. Improvements in tracking, advertising formats and the sharing of industry best practices means that the mobile advertising sector is consistently improving, leaving many of its problems behind.

Nevertheless, there are a few ways publishers can take the initiative to drive advertising standards forward.

First, they can take inspiration from television by building better quality ad formats and placing them naturally within their apps. By doing so, users benefit from an improved in-app experience and publishers could see the performance of adverts increase by 700% as a result of the change to a native approach.

Of course, not all tv ads are good. And the format is very different to mobile. But the message stands: Look at how tv have fit ads in naturally and improved UX.

Second, publishers need to work with advertising partners to operate tighter guidelines on the quality of the advert itself. By vetting adverts to ensure they meet design guidelines, localize effectively and to filter out the fraudsters, publishers can actively work to raise quality and solve the trust issue.

It’s worth noting a caveat to this issue: Publishers need more help from the industry. In a recent piece for AdExchanger, Livingly Media Co-Founder, Danny Khatib highlighted the fact that it’s up to publishers to convince powerful mediation platforms to heighten creative transparency and introduce detective measures for weeding out unwanted ads.

Third, and finally, publishers need to make sure that they are showing relevant adverts to their user base without annoying them. On the one hand, this means working with networks and advertisers to display relevant offerings to individual users.

But, on the other hand, this means targeting users with the correct frequency of adverts. While it is important to hit the right audience, over saturating users with too many adverts significantly diminishes eCPMs as a result of ad fatigue.

Ad quality - frequency graph

Ultimately, the reason why publishers need to care about the quality of mobile advertising is because they hold the key to its future. By holding advertisers to a higher standard, and helping them to deliver better, more relevant, adverts to the end user, publishers can both sustain, and potentially improve, an important revenue stream that will help keep their business afloat.

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