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Why Advertisers Should Care About Premium Publishers

How many times have you been told that you’re judged by the company you keep?

When you were younger, it might have been used as a warning by your parents (who, like Malcolm Gladwell, know deep down that kids only care about what their peers think) that certain friends could have a bad influence, or — worse — that people would cast judgements on you based on your circle.

But it goes the other way, too: A positive perception is going to have favorable runoff, and when it comes to advertising, marketers are taking more notice of how premium publishers are affecting their campaigns for the better.


The definition of “premium” is hard to pin down. There is definitely merit to the statement “Premium is in the eye of the beholder.” If conversion is your bottom line, and you get better results via inventory on a mid-level site, that could be considered “premium” to you.

But when we say premium, we mean publishers that are synonymous with high-quality, trustworthy content — and have the audience to match. These sites are often tied to legacy media brands and are highly recognizable (think the New York Times). But the appeal doesn’t only lie in the site’s audience: Emphasis on better UX and technology, higher ad viewability and less-intrusive ads show that premium publishers are more respectful of users and advertisers.


Dodgy traffic and low time-spent metrics continue to plague programmatic ad buying, and advertisers are growing increasingly wary of solely using exchange networks. According to a new MediaRadar study (via Business Insider), programmatic campaigns declined by 12 percent year-over-year in Q1 2017, as advertisers are starting to be more selective about publishers.

We run a lot of campaigns at Contobox, delivering millions of engagements every month, so we see it from another (slightly less cynical) angle: Focusing only on audience-centric buying without considering media quality will hold back results.

The Contobox metrics for success go way beyond impressions — we focus on engagement and time spent with our ad units, and the data shows that premium publishers deliver the goods.

When running on premium sites we typically see 50-60 percent higher time spent and 60-70 percent higher engagement. And I’m not just talking about companies that Contobox has direct relationships with, such as ESPN, POPSUGAR and Everyday Health, but through our programmatic capabilities we’re seeing amazing results on premium Canadian sites like CBC, Les Affaires and La Presse.


When people see brands on a trusted publisher’s site, an emotional connection is made. Not only does the reader’s ingrained, positive perception of a higher-quality site extend to the ads on the page, but readers intuit that not just anyone can appear on these sites — there’s something impressive about the exclusivity.

Last year, a comScore study said premium publishers are effective brand lift aides because of this “halo effect.” In the study, display and video ads on Digital Content Next (DCN)’s premium publisher sites had an average of 67 percent higher brand lift than non-DCN publishers. The premium publishers were 3x more effective in driving mid-funnel brand lift metrics (such as favorability, consideration and intent to recommend).

We’ve seen similar brand lift results when running on our premium inventory. Nielsen studies we’ve done with ESPN typically show brand lift 4x higher than Nielsen’s average, and 23 percent higher than their 90th-percentile benchmark.


Programmatic is the future of our industry and this isn’t a bad thing — technology will advance and custom consumer segments will get easier to target — but it’s only a piece of the puzzle.

Targeting premium sites can be a core strategy in programmatic. Increasingly, advertisers will need to work whitelisting into their strategies, keeping in mind that, while individually selecting sites to run on instead of banning a few bad apples is a lot more work, it doesn’t have to impact your scale.

All of Contobox’s programmatic buys are already based on whitelisting to ensure all sites can run our high-impact ads and our high-quality inventory. Doing the same will ensure you support premium sites and get the desired return on your campaign.


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