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What does ASMR and Mukbang have to do with advertisers?

While brands go to great lengths to avoid offensive content, MAGNA suggests thinking twice about ad placement beside videos that don't align with their values.

By Patti Summerfield
Nov 1, 2021


For years, advertisers have focused on avoiding having their ads appear next to offensive content. However, the negative effects of proximity to content that might clash with a brand's values has, interestingly, not received as much attention.

"The industry is clear on the fact that brand safety is important. No brand wants to be next to offensive content, but we don't have a lot of answers on what happens with content in the grey area – content that may be okay for some brands but not all," says Kara Manatt, SVP, group director, Intelligence Solutions at MAGNA. "We did this research to quantify the effects on advertising when content is misaligned with a particular brand's values."

In partnership with Channel Factory, MAGNA (the intelligence arm of Mediabrands) has produced a study – The Proximity Effect –¬†that shows ad effectiveness is only as good as the content it is running in, and misaligned content erodes the impact of hardworking ads. It also looks at the safeguards that brands can put in place to ensure they are not running next to content that is misaligned with the brand.

Some of the tested content included that which "commonly produces visceral reactions in people, including skin conditions (e.g. pimple popping), ASMR (videos inducing autonomous sensory meridian response) and Mukbang (video host consumes various quantities of food)," stated MAGNA.

While people don't forget ads that are placed next to or within misaligned content, they do tend to be remembered for the wrong reasons. The study found that brands in misaligned content left consumers with a bad memory attached to the brand and found the content association to be weird or low calibre for the brand. As a result, there was a loss of impact on purchase intent (-8%), brand respect (-9%), impressions that the brand is high quality (-5%), as well as brand trust (-6%).

On the flip side, when ads in standard content were tested, purchase intent increased 9%, brand respect rose 7%, impressions that a brand is high quality went up 7%, and brand trust got a 5% boost.

Manatt says brands need to be just as careful of misaligned content as they do traditionally unsafe content. "For example, many brands want to appear next to trending content, but sometimes what's trending could be misaligned with brand values and could hurt the performance of ads. We learned that sometimes even the most popular, entertaining content can be the most damaging for brands."

The Proximity Effect also found that brands are held most accountable for the content they appear next to in a pre-roll environment. Consumers were 1.5 times as likely to feel the brand endorsed the misaligned content after watching a pre-roll video compared to the video card environment – mobile environments where viewers swipe through cards, which are essentially full screen videos.

In a video card environment, the closer the ad, the stronger the brand association. Consumers were 10% more likely to believe the brand supported the misaligned content that the ad was immediately next to compared to two videos away.

Manatt adds, "To avoid diminishing the effectiveness of otherwise powerful ads, brands need to pay just as much attention to content misalignment as they do to unsafe content when it comes to ad placement."

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash