As retailers prepare their holiday season marketing, they’d be wise to make contextual ads a key area of focus, for a new DoubleVerify study shows they’re the reason consumers are increasingly trying new brands during the pandemic. The global study, which surveyed 10,000 consumers across the US, the UK, France, Germany and Spain, examines how device types, evolving news cycles and new ad technologies have impacted consumers’ engagement with brands online.

Globally, consumers have more downtime and a need to stay informed as 44 percent are using connected television (CTV) devices more and 54 percent are using their smartphone more. As a result, time spent consuming content has ballooned, from 3 hours 17 minutes to an average of 6 hours 59 minutes.

Social media saw the biggest increase in consumption, with 48 percent of consumers spending more time on social platforms. In addition, 43 percent of 18-24 year olds report using YouTube more during the pandemic, followed by 40 percent for TikTok.

Nearly half, 47 percent, are spending more time reading online news and using streaming services such as Netflix more.

A need to access trusted information has encouraged consumers to subscribe to free publications, as 24 percent have done.

The report shows that a shift away from cookie-driven targeting solutions requires positive contextual targeting. In fact, 69 percent of consumers say they’re more likely to look at an ad that’s relevant to the content they’re seeing, with 44 percent saying they’ve tried a new brand after seeing a relevantly placed ad.

For example, 68 percent of consumers are more likely to engage with food and beverage ads that appear adjacent to relevant content they’ve already viewed.

Brands must reach consumers on the appropriate channel, however, as younger consumers prefer to see ads on social media (57 percent) while those over 45 years of age prefer seeing ads on television.

Equally as important as acknowledging where shoppers are open to seeing ads is determining the environment for an online ad, as 67 percent are more likely to engage with an ad on the website of a publisher they know and trust. For example, 41 percent of respondents say it’s appropriate for healthcare brands to advertise beside pandemic-related content.

Consumers are open to COVID-adjacent ads too, as long as they’re in the right place. For example, 48 percent favorably perceive ads adjacent to positive and neutral pandemic content, such as community success stories.

Over half (53 percent) of consumers are also more likely to look at ads on a publication’s homepage than on a different section of the site.

Still, fake news can threaten conversion, as 55 percent of consumers say they’d be less likely, or would never, buy from a brand if the brand’s ad appeared next to fake or misleading content.