News UK is making a move to convince brands they should advertise around hard news and difficult stories, with new research showing consumers are more likely to engage with ads that appear in content that emotionally engages them – either in a positive or negative way.
The study, undertaken by Paul Dolan, professor of behavioural sciences at the London School of Economics, involved 600 readers of The Sun and The Times, who were exposed to content designed to elicit specific emotions alongside video advertising. It was done using three articles from The Sun and three from The Times, with three car ads and three personal care ads running alongside.
People who read an emotionally-arousing piece of content and then interacted with a video ad were 45% more likely to view the whole advert than those who had been exposed to non-arousing content. Similarly, readers who had consumed content that they defined as ‘pleasurable’ and then interacted with the advert were 32% more likely to watch the video ad to the end than those exposed to non-pleasurable content.
Speaking at an event in Cannes this morning (19 June), Dolan said: “Brands tend to be reluctant to put their ads around content that elicits negative arousal [such as the Grenfell tower fire] but the research shows they shouldn’t be.”
Publishers including News UK have been impacted by marketers looking for more brand safe environments for their advertising.
While the YouTube brand safety scandal has provided an opportunity for publishers that can provide safe environments and reassure marketers about where their ads are appearing, it has also led to marketers becoming stricter about what sort of content they want their ads appearing next to.
“What we see with brand safety modelling is huge blacklists against swathes of content,” said Oliver Lewis, director of digital strategy and partnerships at News UK. “We need more insight not just preconceptions about where ads should be based.”
While the research suggests ‘hard’ news should not necessarily be a no-go for brands, Dolan warned that brands need to think about the context of where their ads are appearing and tailor the messaging. For example, if readers feel positive arousal they will want to watch an ad that reinforces that feeling, and vice versa.
“[There needs to be] congruence between the ad and the article. [Brands] want to place a pleasant ad in a pleasant article, but equally place a non-pleasant ad in a non-pleasant article. The analogy is like when you are watching a dark film and someone comes in and tells a joke, it interrupts your mood. You want congruence in that feeling otherwise it spoils the mood you are in.”
The push towards convincing marketers they can advertise around more hard news content comes as News UK launches a new data platform, dubbed NewsIQ, that aims to help advertisers reach audiences based on their emotions and attitudes. It will use data it has on the preferences, opinions and emotions of its audience, allowing brands to create custom audiences and target based on emotional and attitudinal states.
For example, a travel brand could target audiences that have declared a preference for outdoor pursuits, whose opinions are linked to a sense of exclusivity, who over-index for video consumption and respond with positive emotions to adventure stories.
The hope is this will move News UK up the purchase funnel, helping to drive engagement and emotional loyalty, and move the industry away from click-through rates and towards time spent with a brand or total reach of target audience.
“We want to remove some of the proxies,” said News UK’s digital commercial director Ben Walmsley. “Why [should marketers] settle for viewability when they really care about how much time consumers are spending with their brand; why should they care about impressions when they really want to reach large audiences; why should they use click-through rates when they are a mediocre proxy for time spent with a brand.”
While NewsIQ is a commercial product, the hope is it will also change the thinking of the business to put data at its heart and inform everything News UK does – including in its own marketing.
Read all of Marketing Week’s Cannes Lions 2018 coverage, sponsored by MiQ, here.