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A sense of place: Why environments matter

A sense of place: Why environments matter Pam Horan

The Online Publishers Association (OPA), unveiled a new study, "A Sense of Place: Why Environments Matter," at the iMedia Brand Summit in Miami on June 14, 2010. The study sought to understand whether consumers perceive content differently in various online environments and whether these perceptions have an impact on advertising receptivity and consumer response.

Harris Interactive conducted the research on behalf of the OPA, and surveyed 2,910 U.S. adults across three key online environments: 1) media properties (e.g., ESPN.com, iVillage, NYTimes.com, The Wall Street Journal Digital Network), 2) portal channels (e.g., AOL News, MSN Money, Yahoo Sports), and 3) social networks (e.g., Facebook, MySpace).  One-on-one web cam interviews with a subset of these respondents added qualitative insights to the study.

Harris ran statistical correlations to understand whether there is a relationship between how content is perceived in these environments and how consumers perceive and respond to advertisers. Correlations measure the strength of the relationship between two variables, and can range from -1 to +1, with zero being no relationship.

The following graph summarizes the relationships the OPA study examined. It explored the impact of consumer involvement with a site's content on consumer perceptions of the content and the website brand. It then looked to see whether involvement and consumer perceptions impacted perceptions of advertisers who appear on that site, and ultimately whether it impacted the actions those consumers are likely to take with those advertised brands.

"The goal of our research is to help brand marketers better understand why consumers receive and respond to online brand advertising differently depending on the content environment in which the message appears," said Pam Horan, OPA president. "Our findings show that site destination matters as trust and relevant content are perceived differently across content environments. This study concludes that consumers perceive and take action differently depending on where the advertiser's message appears."

The impact of site involvement
The OPA also leveraged Harris Interactive proprietary research to gain an understanding of consumer behavior. Through this effort they learned that two drivers: "emotional connection" and "fit" can predict everything from the success of a presidential candidate to the success of a TV pilot and that these concepts -- emotions and fit -- are customizable to each industry.

With the OPA research study, Harris found four attributes -- connection, fit, loyalty and site quality -- positively influence consumer perceptions about websites in terms of a consumer's level of trust in a site's content, its relevance, its perceived timeliness and a consumer's willingness to advocate or share content accessed from that site. 

The impact of positive content perceptions
The next step of the research sought to understand whether positive content perceptions by consumers influence their perceptions of the advertisers who place ads on those sites. The study found that when consumers have positive perceptions of a site's content they have positive views of advertisers within those content environments. In fact, those advertisers are perceived as having quality products, and are viewed as brands that are perceived as both relevant and respected by these consumers. In other words, the OPA study found that there is a positive brand halo effect created when advertisers are viewed within the context of environments where consumers are significantly involved, because that involvement leads to positive perceptions about both the site's content and the brands who advertise on those sites.

The impact of positive content and advertiser perceptions on advertising response
The OPA study also found that when advertisers' brands are positively perceived, there is a strong correlation between those positive perceptions and a consumer's likelihood to both respond to an ad and purchase from that brand. While ads on portal channels and media sites lead in their ability to drive search, media sites excel in their ability to impact purchases. 

The research showed content matters and brands matter. The three environments in the study generated different consumer perceptions and responsiveness to the content consumers were viewing, and these different perceptions influenced their perceptions about the brands that advertise in each environment.

  • Consumers are more likely to trust content on media sites (72 percent) than portal channels (60 percent) and social media (23 percent)

  • Audiences on media sites are significantly more likely to believe these sites' advertisers are reputable and offer high quality products (24 percent), compared to portal channels (20 percent) and social media (8 percent)

  • People who recall purchasing from a site's advertisers are significantly more likely to do so from media sites (8 percent) than portal channels (5 percent) or social media (2 percent)

  • Those loyal to media sites are more likely to purchase from advertisers on these sites (15 percent) than portal loyalists or social media loyalists (8 percent and 4 percent respectively)

The OPA will share these new research findings through presentations in the following six cities:

  • June 16: Detroit area at The Townsend Hotel

  • June 17: Chicago at theWit Hotel

  • June 23: Atlanta at The Grand Hyatt

  • June 24: New York at New World Stages

  • June 29: San Francisco at The St. Regis Hotel

  • June 30: Los Angeles at The Regent Beverly Wilshire

To register, visit the OPA website. The research will be available on June 30.

Pam Horan is president of the OPA.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Pam Horan was appointed president of the Online Publishers Association (OPA) in June 2006 after having served as VP of marketing and membership for two years. Prior to joining the OPA, Horan worked at Zinio Systems Inc., where she was the VP of...

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Commenter: Andrew Fischer

2010, July 08

These findings validate why advertisers and agencies should only work with 3rd parties that understand "why environments matter.” The right firms provide advertisers with the ability to reach specific audiences through a transparent brand-safe platform of PREMIUM publishers. At The RGM Alliance, our unique model provides a "best of both worlds” solution by fusing the benefits of site-specific advertising with the efficiencies of working with ad networks. The result are campaigns that drive performance while protecting the integrity of the brand by only working with trusted, premium site partners. Visit us at: www.RGMAlliance.com

Commenter: Liz Zedo

2010, June 22

Interesting discovering that consumers have positive perceptions of a site's content they have positive views of advertisers within those content environments. Just proves how important targeting is!

ZEDO, Inc.

Commenter: Liz Zedo

2010, June 22

Interesting discovering that consumers have positive perceptions of a site's content they have positive views of advertisers within those content environments. Just proves how important targeting is!

ZEDO, Inc.