ALERT: Free Media Subscriptions Town Hall today, register now

Research shows why the power of context counts in advertising

By Jessie Sampson


London, United Kingdom

With attention at a premium in our device-dominated world, making sure people actually see ads — and in the right place at the right time — is more complex than ever before. As Lumen’s Mike Follett said at Newsworks’ second-annual Effectiveness Summit: “Just because an ad can be seen, doesn’t mean that it will be seen.”

In print, we know that newspapers are a largely solus medium with 60% of readers not consuming any other media at the same time. Additionally, Lumen eye-tracking research conducted over Black Friday and Christmas shows 75% of readers look at each print ad, on average.

Warburtons called out another Warburton in a recent ad.
Warburtons called out another Warburton in a recent ad.

In addition to providing an engaged context for advertisers to reach consumers, newspapers also give brands the opportunity to align themselves with relevant content and topical events, increasing their relevance to readers. Some great recent examples include:

  • BabybelThe cheese brand ran a highly contextual campaign in Metro, with the cheeky ads drawing directly on the surrounding editorial.
  • WarburtonsPlaying on their shared name, the bakery congratulated rugby player Sam Warburton in The Sunday Times’ sports section after the Lions drew the series against New Zealand in Auckland.
  • Close BrothersOn the day that Theresa May triggered Brexit with the signing of Article 50, the banking group ran a simple but effective topical ad opposite The Times’ analysis.

Crucially, this ability to reach engaged consumers with relevant advertising also extends online to newsbrands’ digital offerings. Lumen’s eye-tracking research, conducted this summer, shows ad viewing is 80% more likely, and ads get noticed in around half the time on news brands’ sites when compared to non-news brand sites.

The work shows that adopting a fewer-but-better approach to online advertising increases attention scores — as noted with print advertising, where size and strength of creative creates stand out — while placing an online ad in a relevant editorial context also has a big impact.

“There seems to be a very strong relationship between engaging with content and engaging with advertising,” Follett explains. “It turns out that news brands seem to have far more engaging content, at a far greater regularity than anywhere else.”

Woodland Trust recently ran an contextually relevant online advertisement.
Woodland Trust recently ran an contextually relevant online advertisement.

Recent digital news brand campaigns illustrate these points. These campaigns weren’t necessarily included in the Lumen research, but they are good examples of contextually relevant ads with attention-grabbing creative. 

Theirworld ran an aesthetic, relevant ad related to gender imbalance.
Theirworld ran an aesthetic, relevant ad related to gender imbalance.

    • NetflixWith election coverage having dominated UK news brands in the run-up to the vote, Netflix took the chance to promote the latest series of House of Cards with a snappy ad on the Guardian’s election page.
    • Woodland TrustWhile this ad is less overtly about the contextual placement (although advertising the Woodland Trust around The Telegraph’s Lifestyle page makes a lot of sense), the continuity of the ad across the page and lack of clutter makes this ad stand out and almost become immersive. It’s a very good example of translating the principles of print advertising online.
    • TheirworldOn International Women’s Day this year, the children’s charity rolled out digital news brand ads to highlight gender imbalance in education and raise awareness of its coding campaign, Rewriting the Code. This campaign stands out aesthetically, but it also harnesses news brands’ newsworthy context for delivering a serious and timely message to readers.
    • SamsungFor the launch of its Galaxy S8, Samsung took to news brands (print and digital) to illustrate the curved edges of the screen. The print ads, a MailOnline homepage takeover, and an expandable ad on the Guardian’s site all use simple, strong visuals to bring to life the “unbox your phone” message. 

All of the above campaigns, while utilising news brands’ high reader attention, also maximise this further by either aligning themselves with relevant editorial or translating the principles of print advertising — visually strong, uncluttered creative — to an online environment.

About Jessie Sampson

By continuing to browse or by clicking “ACCEPT,” you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance your site experience. To learn more about how we use cookies, please see our privacy policy.