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24 January 2023
Why brands should steer clear of ‘grey content’
Context & position of advertisingCreativity & researchStrategy
Persuasion metrics such as purchase intent and search intent are adversely affected by ‘grey content’, according to a study from Magna, the media intelligence business owned by IPG Mediabrands.
What is grey content?
This is content that may or may not be aligned with individual brand values, Magna explains in The Art of Alignment, a study of 5,845 regular YouTube users across the UK, US and Australia watching content and answering a post-exposure survey to measure impact on brand KPIs.
Why it matters
The study found that, rightly or wrongly, advertising brands are held accountable for the content their ads appear next to (specifically video ads in this study). But while consumers tend to make an association between content and adjacent brands (eg “ads that play during videos are usually supporting the video”), they don’t necessarily do that to the same extent across all categories.
Grey content blurs message association: Magna found a nine percentage-point gap between ads in standard content and ads in grey content.
With grey content, purchase intent dropped six points, while search intent dropped five points.
Ads from toy and financial services brands were at increased risk from being seen as misaligned compared to beverage or QSR brands.
Gen Z adults and millennials were more likely than older age groups to react to the perceived misalignment of ads.
Consumers were more critical of B2B brands when it came to the appropriateness or otherwise of ad placements.
“Ad environments that fall into grey areas require careful judgment calls be made by brands and their agencies,” says Joshua Lowcock, global chief media officer at IPG Mediabrands media agency UM. “There isn’t always a one-size fits-all solution as misaligned content for one brand could be a smart, under-leveraged opportunity for another.”