David Blecken
Oct 30, 2019

Japanese consumers shun brands in ‘low-quality’ environments

A study suggests Japan is particularly sensitive to context when it comes to online advertising.


Advertisers in Japan need to pay special attention to the quality of the environment in which they appear online, research by Integral Ad Science (IAS) suggests.

The Ripple Effect study by the company, which specialises in areas such as brand risk and the effectiveness of digital advertising placements, found that 65% of Japanese internet users are likely to stop using a brand if it appears in a ‘low quality’ environment.

The figure compares to 62% in the US, unexpectedly indicating heightened sensitivity to brand values in Japan, a market where advertising tends to be tactical rather than brand-led.

More than 80% respondents said it is important for online ads to appear in high quality environments; close to 90% described ads appearing alongside low quality content as “annoying”; and nearly 70% are inclined to hold advertisers solely responsible for poor placements.

IAS’s study was conducted online in September 2019 and canvassed 501 people in Japan and 4,571 people globally.

People are “voting with their feet”, said Tony Marlow, chief marketing officer for IAS. Marlow said it was important for advertisers to think in terms of “suitability” as well as safety when appearing online.

“To get suitability right, they need to understand what they stand for and be clear on their identity,” he said.

Defining a ‘low quality’ environment is not always easy as it’s ultimately a question of user perception. Marlow noted that positioning “exists in the mind of the target audience”, and are annoyed when they see a “mismatch in context”—i.e. the brand appearing somewhere they see as unbefitting of its values.

“The consumer is not thinking about all the players in the ecosystem,” Marlow said. “They don’t blame the publisher when an ad turns up in an incongruent environment, which is logical, but it’s easy for marketers to forget how a consumer might react.”

Marlow added that an IAS lab study in September conducted with Neuro-Insight, a neuromarketing company, found that ads consumers judged to be in positive environments were more memorable: the parts of the brain responsible for memory encoding lit up 30% more than when the subject viewed ads in less positive locations.

The findings cast doubt on the idea that brands should create content that can ‘live anywhere’. “This research shows that the entire context is what matters,” Marlow said.

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