What is Ad Experience and Why is it Important?

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Ad experience is one of those terms that can mean different things to different people, so the best place to start is by defining what it means to Neal Thurman, Co-Founder of the Brand Safety Institute (BSI) and Director of the Coalition for Better Ads. He’s the expert at BSI that we collaborated with for this in-depth view of ad experience and why it matters to publishers and brands alike. It’s the second article in our collaboration series with BSI — so if you missed the first on the definition of brand safety and why knowing your partners is important, you should definitely check that out!

Let’s dig in.

What is Ad Experience for BSI?

“Ad experience for us is about the size and shape of the ad format — it’s the look and feel of the ad, including ad density on the page. What it’s not is how ‘heavy’ the ad is in terms of page loading speed, or any of those kinds of metrics. Those definitely play a role in the user experience of the ad, don’t get me wrong, but when we focus on ad experience, we focus on the visual characteristics of the ad that annoy users, interrupt their digital journey, and, ultimately, push them to use ad blockers.”

So why should this be important to publishers and advertisers? Our answer to that is all about user experience (UX).

“There’s a lot of research out there that less is more. You can decrease your ad inventory[2][1] if it’s the right kind of inventory. If you optimize the ad slots that you have to include the formats that consumers are more likely to interact with, then you’re going to increase your ad revenue while actually decreasing your ad density.”

Wait, what? You heard him, folks — and he had the data to back it up. A case study developed with German publisher Burda showcased user experience-driven changes, including decreasing ad inventory by 20% and how it changed the way consumers interact with their advertisements. The results were astonishing! 

“Burda saw their revenue increase by 26% after they first decreased their ad inventory — and that amount only continued to go up over time. It was a serious win for them,” says Neil.

“More companies need to see going through a review program like ours as an optimization exercise and less like a regulatory process or something they have to do. It’s not just about doing what you’re ‘supposed to do’ — it’s about making sure that you’re getting the right kinds of eyeballs on ads, and making your inventory really valuable to brands.”

And that’s what decreasing your ad density, and optimizing your ad slots can do!

“This is one area where consumer interest and publisher[3] interest are perfectly aligned. Ad density does play into the legitimacy of a page, especially for brands. They know that the adage applies — you are the company you keep! Showing up on a clickbait website can harm a brand that’s already established, and dash the dreams of becoming an established brand for those who are up and coming.”

Why should publishers start investing in brand safety initiatives?

“I see our programs as something that brands and advertisers see as a selling feature. It makes brand safety a core competency of the publisher. So far the industry as a whole has been very collaborative, but at some point, you have to distinguish yourself and brand safety is a great way to do that. It’s not a binary proposition where you either have it or you don’t — you have to be able to demonstrate that you’re living and breathing it. Making sure your ad experience is on point is a huge part of that.”

Stay tuned for the next article in the series on Ad Fraud[4].

1. ad inventory. Ad Inventory refers to the number of ad impressions available for sale on a publisher’s website or mobile app. In other words, these are the commodities available for the advertisers to buy on the website.
2. inventory. The number of advertisements, or amount of ad space, a publisher has available to sell to an advertiser. The term can refer to ads in print or other traditional media but is increasingly used to refer to online or mobile ads
3. publisher. Web publishing is the process of publishing original content on the Internet. The process includes building and uploading websites, updating the associated webpages, and posting content to these webpages online. Web publishing is also known as online publishing.
4. Ad Fraud. Many forms of ad fraud exist, but at a basic level, it relates to companies serving ads to fake ad inventories by using bots or automatically refreshing pages to increase views. The result is that no real person sees an advertiser’s ad and the ads served are fraudulent.

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