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Publishers are constantly focused on producing original content. And the motivation goes beyond simply drawing in more viewers. According to a new study from the Online Publishers Association, ads perform better surrounded by original content relevant to the brand.

For OPA's purposes, that means that ads on its partner sites perform better than ads on both portals and ad networks. The group found that as much as advertisers focus on reaching the right audience, advertising to that group in the right environment is key.

According to "Improving Ad Performance Online," ads surrounded by original content on OPA sites were better at raising awareness, creating message association, generating brand favorability and driving purchase intent. This was especially true with wealthy readers and so-called influencers.

OPA's study, conducted by Dynamic Logic, found that ad campaigns on OPA partner sites were about 1 percentage point better than market norms when it came to brand awareness, ad awareness, message association and brand favorability. Ads on portals performed about equal or slightly worse than the market in those same categories. And ads on ad networks proved slightly less effective than portals like AOL and Yahoo.

OPA thinks these results prove that context is key. According to Pam Horan, president of the OPA:

“Ad network performance has declined to a point where they provide no significant increase in purchase intent to advertisers. As a result of this insignificance, the average brand campaign may not achieve greater brand lift by advertising on an ad network. ”

Of course, publishers are usually selling their premium content directly to brands and networks sell remnant or unsold ads. That inventory is sold at a lower price and doesn't have to provide the same results to be profitable for advertisers.

But OPA argues that certain verticals do not experience any brand lift with portals. They found financial services and technology purchase intent and favorability to be insignificant on ad networks. The group also found auto, travel, telecom and entertainment purchase intent to be insignificant on portals. 

The group also found that wealthier audiences respond better to ads surrounded by OPA content.

While advertisers are correctly focusing on audiences they want to reach, OPA points out that brand awareness is more likely to grow if ads sent to audiences are surrounded by the right content.

Says Horan:

“The fact remains that placement of your ad does matter, both in its effectiveness and impact with consumers. Well-lit, high quality content sites continue to offer advertisers the opportunity to raise awareness, create message association, drive purchase intent and generate brand favorability.”

Images: OPA

Meghan Keane

Published 27 April, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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