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Saudi Report 2021: A question of context, by Twitter’s Walid Issa and UM’s Nadeem Ibrahim

A Twitter and Mediabrands Saudi Arabia study has found ads viewed in the context of premium content are worth the spend – but it’s the viewers themselves who define what content that is.

Twitter’s Walid Issa and UM’s Nadeem Ibrahim

Ad video spending in Saudi Arabia is due to increase exponentially in the upcoming years. By 2025 it will have more than doubled, from $231m in 2021 to $483m. All that money on the line means it’s more important than ever for marketers to gather consumer insights that drive ad effectiveness.

With that in mind, Twitter, in partnership with IPG Mediabrands’ intelligence team, and with support from UM Saudi Arabia, took an in-depth look at the role of context in video ad effectiveness. In the recently released study, The Influence of Context: Premium Content, User Experience and Beyond, researchers found that shelling out extra marketing dollars to advertise on premium content is often worth the spend.


The study gathered a representative audience of approximately 2,400 viewers and documented demographics and media consumption habits beforehand. Participants were then randomly directed to consume video content of their interests across in-feed and non-feed environments and exposed to one of three types of content: premium content of brand-safe, broadcast-quality; high-quality user-generated content (UGC); and lower-quality UGC. Pre-roll ads were served prior to each type of content. Researchers then surveyed participants in order to measure the impact of the pre-roll ads on branding metrics across content type and viewing experience, in-feed on Twitter versus non-feed on a video aggregator.

Key findings of the research show that quality content can be worth the premium price. Brands that appeared within the context of premium content benefitted from a halo effect, in that consumers thought the content was more trustworthy and shareable, which led to a +4 per cent higher intent to purchase from the brand. In terms of UGC, researchers found that production level didn’t appear to matter to consumers in Saudi Arabia, as there was no discernable impact on brand favourability or perceptions based on ads being seen in the context of high- and low-quality production content. In fact, 73 per cent of the audience believed low-production-quality content was actually high-quality-production content created by verified content creators. Though quality matters to consumers, they define what is actually considered ‘quality’.

Researchers also found that consumers felt less forced to watch ads that appeared in-feed, as they created an opt-in effect that had them interested and believing that culturally relevant, brand new information was being shared with them. This naturally had a positive impact on purchasing intent. Non-feed ads served a purpose as well, however, reaching a broader audience of people who spent more time viewing the ads, likely because they were intentionally viewing a particular content topic.

This higher ad completion rate fueled curiosity in the brand.

Walid Issa, head of research, MENA, at Twitter, and Nadeem Ibrahim, digital director, UM MENA, explain more about the findings.

How can marketers and media planners use the information in this study to make their ad spending more effective?

Walid Issa: The context within which an ad appears plays a crucial role in capturing attention, but more importantly it has a direct impact on achieving the desired efficacy of any ad campaign. From an audience-experience standpoint, the environment within which the content is being consumed goes hand-in-hand with the creative content itself in influencing the effectiveness of the message being communicated.

How can marketers ensure that their ads are appearing alongside quality content if ‘quality’ is user-defined?

WI: Ultimately, if the content is relevant, it will resonate. For marketers to ensure that the content their brands appear alongside is perceived as quality content, it’s a matter of having the right targeting parameters in place. The answer is in ensuring the full alignment between the content and the interests and passion points of the receiving audience being targeted. And, on top of that, the context maximises the impact of the brand’s key message.

What are some new ways of identifying the right UGC for your brand?

Nadeem Ibrahim: We tend to find that content quality that is user-defined matters the most in KSA. By leveraging premium content and high-production UGC, brands can significantly elevate their content. However, in a market where influencer marketing is on a trajectory of growth, the study found production quality of UGC bears no difference in brand performance, particularly for when we consider the results for telco provider STC. It became apparent users engaged mainly with interesting content that nudged the bottom-line results.

Why should advertisers leverage in-feed video to take advantage of curated feed and an opt-in ad experience?

NI: A user who opts in clearly wants to see ads that are more relevant to complement their personal feed. In the case of STC, we noticed a curated user experience leads to a positive impact on brand metrics. There is a clear synergy between brand and premium content, which noticeably results in the brand benefiting from a halo effect. Since the quality of production is least important for consumers, there is the opportunity for brands in KSA to take advantage of a curated feed by appearing across high-quality content.

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