News & Opinion

It's time to solve the context crisis

Newsworks' Vanessa Clifford and Magnetic's Sue Todd join forces to demonstrate the importance of context and harnessing the safe environments of established media, in a piece first published by Mediatel.

Imagine Beyoncé opening her world tour at The Half Moon pub in Putney. Neymar kicking-off the new season at Grimsby Town. Or Miranda Hart popping up on Celebrity Love Island. It's just not going to happen. Yet some of the world's most famous brands seem content to behave in an equivalent fashion; ignoring the importance of context and appearing in environments that are entirely inappropriate and harmful to their fortunes.

The growth of programmatic and audience implementation has, for many agencies and advertisers, downgraded the importance of context. Instead of prioritising where an ad appears, the focus has shifted to buying audience exposures at the lowest possible cost, in the fastest possible time, irrespective of where that may be.

This flies in the face of a whole range of research that demonstrates a quality environment remains vitally important to advertisers.

As we saw with The Times' "Big brands fund terror through online adverts" headlines earlier this year, the issues of brand safety and viewability have reached crisis points. And responsible brands are taking action.

Procter & Gamble has cut more than $100 million in a quarter from digital ad budgets to avoid sites built on fake traffic from bots and those carrying offensive content.

It's a given that advertisers want to reach as many of the right people as possible, as efficiently as possible (while simultaneously cultivating a level of uniqueness), but removing context from the equation is a damaging decision. Risking a response of "well, they would say that wouldn't they?", there’s no denying that newsbrands and magazines, as proven by multiple research studies, offer a powerful combination for advertisers – long-term brand building, quality contexts and meaningful emotional connections with audiences.

Newsbrands and magazines reach huge multi-platform audiences, while also offering advertisers engaged eyeballs in a relevant environment. Lumen's eye-tracking research, which shows that ads placed alongside related editorial deliver higher attention rates, provides further proof of the power of context and supports the old adage that "it's where you're seen that counts".

As marketing budgets come under increased pressure and face closer scrutiny, and competition for audience attention intensifies, it's time to reassess the building blocks of media planning and review industry preconceptions about published media.

The time to have a cup of tea and a chat about things before moving on has passed. We need to implement a plan of action for brands, publishers and agencies to solve the context crisis.

That's why, in the lead up to our joint event with Mediatel on 22 November, we're laying down the challenges that we believe must be addressed by the ad industry. In short, we're asking, "What three things could we do differently?"

Think beyond reach

As the context crisis shows - leading brands pulled advertising following The Times' investigation – evaluating the value of advertising isn’t simply about determining its audience reach and scale.

We must also be aware of its impact on audiences and the environment in which it appears. Published media delivers on both factors, yet the benefits aren't utilised as widely as they could be.

Magazines and newsbrands harness the benefits of context, in tandem with scale, to provide brands with a "two birds, one stone" solution.

Change the narrative

The media industry is absolutely addicted to the new and is always looking to the future, to the next big thing. While this is human nature and important for progress, the associated danger is that we relegate valuable experience to the past. Given that they are so well established, the narrative around published media is often negative and people have fixed ideas about their role for advertisers.

In fact, newsbrands and magazines are constantly innovating and evolving. From creative VR projects, through to editorially integrated branded content campaigns, the delivery for advertisers goes well beyond an eye-catching DPS.

Fill the action gap

Publishers have achieved record audiences, yet ad revenues haven’t matched this growth. In fact, they are falling behind the development and rise in people's consumption of the content. This shortfall between audience behaviour and revenue points to a significant disconnect between consumer and advertiser.

On 22 November, Magnetic and Newsworks are coming together to debate these challenges at our Mediatel event, "Solving the Context Crisis". From strategists, to planners, to traders, we will hear from people in varied roles at agencies, as well as from newspaper and magazine publishers – some of whom are poachers turned gamekeepers, having spent time on the agency side.

The programme also includes the presentation of our new joint research to remind people of the power of published media. But this won’t just be a talking shop. Our goal is to come out of the event with a clear action plan – for publishers of course, but also for agencies and advertisers.

If we're to succeed as published media then we all need to play our part to ensure that brands have the quality contexts that they deserve.

Solving the Context Crisis is an invite-only event, to be held at the Soho Hotel on 22 November from 8.30am-11am. Panellists include Publicis' Dom Boyd and GroupM's Paul Rowlinson. You can apply for an invitation via the Mediatel Events website here.

This blog was first published by Mediatel.

In the lead up to our joint event with Mediatel on 22 November, we're laying down the challenges that we believe must be addressed by the ad industry. In short, we're asking 'What three things could we do differently?'

Newsworks' CEO Vanessa Clifford & Magnetic's CEO Sue Todd
by Vanessa Clifford and Sue Todd 12/10/17

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