Digital ads brand risk eases, but Ukraine war sees violence spike

ukraine war - Image by Patrick Behn from Pixabay

Integral Ad Science today released The Media Quality Report – 17th Edition, which showed that, while global brand risk in digital advertising had eased, there has been a rise in violent content online amid Russia’s war with Ukraine.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started in late February this year.

The report analyses billions of global ad impressions, providing transparency into the performance and quality of global digital advertising placements in the first half of 2022.

Global improvement in brand risk

Brand risk in digital advertising dropped significantly across all environments in the first half of 2022 compared with the same period in 2021. Overall, worldwide brand risk remained below 2.5%.

This shows that there was a much smaller percentage of ads landing on pages that were flagged as potentially unsafe to brands. 

Display and video ads in desktop environments proved to be safer at 1.6% globally, while mobile web campaigns encountered a brand risk of up to 2.4% worldwide.

In particular, Italy represented the lowest levels of brand risk globally for display ads on desktop (0.5%) and video ads on mobile (1.3%).

Increased use of context-based strategies

The report shows that despite the impact of global news cycles, brand risk rates remained on a downward trajectory as the adoption of context-based strategies continues to grow. 

MQR data shows that as contextual targeting becomes more prevalent, keyword blocking becomes obsolete and brand risk rapidly recedes.

The drop also indicates the use of pre-bid brand safety technologies that filter out unsafe impressions before a bid is placed and impressions are bought.

War in Ukraine drives greater violent content

Despite all the improvements in brand risk, Germany and France lagged behind global averages. 

Both countries recorded the highest levels of brand risk globally for video ads across desktop (Germany: 1.8%, France: 2.2%) and mobile (France: 3.7% Germany: 4.3%).

Looking at the total number of pages flagged as posing a risk, the report categorises unsafe content based on the following types – adult, alcohol, hate speech, illegal downloads, illegal drugs, offensive language and controversial content (including misinformation) and violence. 

On a global level, depictions of violence drove the highest risk for brands, followed by adult content.

In fact, the worldwide percentage of content related to violence almost doubled from H1 2021 to H1 2022, relative to other categories. 

On desktop environments, it increased from 24.9% to 47.9% for display impressions and 24.3% to 45.6% for video.

In fact, pages related to violent content represented more than two out of every five pages posing risk to brands across environments.

wpp partners with the ukrainian government - Image par Satheesh Sankaran de Pixabay
Violent times: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine helped see a spike in violent content.

The war in Ukraine has dominated global headlines for the first half of 2022.

With more content related to violence, it is no surprise this form of risk has increased globally relative to other categories.

A solution to the current conflict in Ukraine would likely see this ease off.

Video ads more viewable than display

The Media Quality Report shows how viewable an ad was on average while most pixels of the ad were in view on a user’s screen and for how long. Globally, viewability levels increased for all ad environments, while remaining essentially unchanged for video ads on desktop.

Overall, video impressions achieved higher viewability rates (76% and higher) than display impressions (66% and higher) in the first half of 2022 – even as display showed the greatest improvements in global benchmarks.

Italy maintained the highest viewability rates for video ads worldwide, reaching 82.7% on desktop and 88.0% on mobile.

In video, CTV was the most viewed environment globally with an average viewability of 93.2%.

Consumer attention remains a focal point

As advertising moves away from third-party data, metrics that effectively measure the attention of consumers are increasingly being sought by advertisers.

Two stand out metrics that may help gauge attention are display time-in-view – the average time ads remind in view, and video ad completion – the share of viewable video ad impressions that remained in view through the advertisement play time.

Time-in-view levels for display ads remained close to previous levels globally, but still dropped by less than one second across desktop (21.79s), mobile web (14.57s) and mobile in-app (17.75s). 

In Europe, most markets trended below these global averages, except for Spain.

However, ad completion for video ads increased worldwide, reflecting the attention of video ads compared to display ads. 

Full-length video ad completion rates proved to be higher for desktop (80.3%) than mobile web (73.8%) in H1 2022, a trend likely correlated with screen size. 

In Italy, 76.8% of video ads on mobile web remained in view till completion, recording the highest rates globally.

Ad Fraud increases globally

The volume of fraudulent impressions also increased across all environments, following a global trend. Desktop environments experienced higher levels of optimised-against-ad-fraud (i.e. when anti-fraud protection was present) of up to 1.4%, compared to 0.5% on mobile.

Even still, mobile campaigns running without anti-fraud protection encountered up to 16 times the amount of ad fraud as optimised fraud rates.

Germany experienced the highest increase of optimised-against-fraud rates, reaching 2.7% across desktop video and 1.9% across mobile environments, ranking it with the highest rate of invalid traffic (IVT) in those environments globally.

Spain, however, outperformed global averages, and was the only market to show lower levels of fraud across environments annually.

This highlights the ongoing need for campaign optimisation, which can keep brands better protected against fraudsters that ‘follow the money’ and may be more attracted to higher CPMs.

Csaba Szabo, Managing Director, EMEA, Integral Ad Science, commented: “It’s highly significant that brand risk has decreased globally, even under geopolitical upheaval and severe economic challenges. 

“It is a testament to the robustness of context-based and pre-bid brand safety solutions that advertisers employ.

“However, we live in a time of unpredictability, and the Media Quality Report highlights the importance of ad campaigns that hold consumers’ attention. 

“Advertisers must ensure that their spend is as effective as possible, and optimising for attention will remain a key metric.”

Integral Ad Science’s Media Quality Report – 17th Edition highlights brand safety, ad fraud, and viewability trends across display, video, mobile web, and in-app advertising. 

It analysed billions of global data impressions from ad campaigns that ran between 1st January to 30th June, 2022. The full report can be viewed here.