THE BLOG
11/22/2016 12:50 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Quality in Digital Advertising: Why We Need A Better User Experience Now

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John Murphy, VP of Marketplace Quality, OpenX

Think back, way back, to the early 2000s. Odds are you remember the home page takeovers and painfully irrelevant pop-ups that interfered with your browsing incessantly. We've made a lot of progress over the last decade and a half but even as we succeed at finding new ways to improve digital advertising, new threats have emerged. Malware. Forced redirects. Auto-play audio and video. All of these threats weaken the consumer experience, and ultimately drive them away from publishers.

At many of the biggest advertising events this year, including Cannes and Advertising Week NY, industry players expressed concerns about ad quality and performance. To create an improved user experience that leads to a better ROI, publishers, brands, and technology partners in the middle must all deliver better ads — ones that aren't intrusive and disruptive, but engaging and highly relevant to consumers' current wants and needs.

Zero In On Ad Quality

To some extent, ad quality is subjective; good ads are in the eye of the beholder (or in this case, the consumer). But clearly there are forms of advertising that are objectively bad for the user experience. Display ads that block content or are unsafe (like malware) are plainly unacceptable. They interfere with the publisher-user value exchange, and that can create negative feelings toward both the site and brand.

Another aspect of online advertising that consumers tend to scrutinize is speed. Thanks to fast-loading apps, consumers’ expectations for online and mobile ad experience are constantly rising. It's one of the reasons why many users have resorted to employing ad blockers. To your audience, ads that slow down their experience can be as objectionable as those that might put them at risk. The ultimate goal for sellers and buyers should be to create engaging messaging while also improving ad performance: delivering relevant ads fast. Publishers and technology platforms can help indirectly by educating advertisers on the importance of knowing the weight of an ad and how it could impact load times and user experience.

Mitigate the Effects of Malware

Malicious software is a blight on the digital marketing landscape that continues to spread. Converting publishers from passive players to active participants in improving ad quality and getting full industry buy-in will help to incapacitate malware, but it isn't enough. For example, if a publisher is using the latest browser and operating system, the risk of an attack is much lower, but with programmatic now representing more than two-thirds of all US digital display ad spending, malware can target systems that aren't up to date.

The solution? Many premium publishers are now working with monitoring companies like The Media Trust, on both security and user experience. After that, sites should align themselves with a trustworthy monetization partner for their targeted programmatic campaigns, as this approach protects publishers and brands alike.

The Future of Advertising is Bright

Many wonder what the future has in store. Can we really do enough to effect change? The fact is that today countless publishers aren't fully aware of the types of ads that are running on their sites, how these ads affect page load times, and how they might be degrading the user experience. This lack of insight dramatically reduces their ability to improve the advertising experience, and will continue to do so in the months and years to come.

It's important, therefore, that publishers become active, informed participants in improving ad quality. Take a closer look at what you're putting out into the online world, and prioritize quality assurance and optimization to create a better ad experience for all. The adtech industry can help this along by empowering publishers with better controls and greater visibility into ads that are running to ensure that users are satisfied and that the integrity of the ad marketplace is preserved.

Since the early days of digital publishing, publishers have grappled with the issue of trust. In order to build a loyal audience that's of value to their advertisers, publishers must deliver appealing, informative content that consumers can rely on. At the same time, to maintain their user base and keep consumers coming back, publishers have to serve ads that accurately reflect audience preferences and behavior.

The common thread that ties these two efforts together is quality: quality content, quality ads, and a high-quality user experience. Achieving this doesn't fall to individual publishers, brands, or ad exchanges. Rather, it's a mission for the industry as a whole.

So let's get started.