- More than half (52%) of surveyed U.S. consumers reported that overexposure to ads was most likely to negatively impact their perception of a brand, while just 32% said the same for messages that appear next to questionable content, according to findings from a new study conducted by the audience targeting firm GWI and researcher WARC.
- Website ads were mostly seen as excessive (32%), distracting (31%) and intrusive (27%), with few (10%) reporting they stand out as memorable, per the study.
- When selecting an answer to the question "which word best describes the ads you typically see…," many consumers deemed advertising "excessive" across TV, social media and the web. Such fatigue could be amplified by the pandemic, as people spend more time glued to screens.
GWI and WARC's research emphasizes that consumer patience for heavy advertising volume is wearing thin, with many people feeling bombarded by brand messages. Changes to media consumption habits are potentially exacerbating the situation, while solutions for marketers could be tougher to realize as bedrock ad-targeting functions are sunset in the months ahead.
The research also speaks to how some brands may have misaligned priorities. Brand safety has become a hot item for many companies as they look to avoid associations with harmful content, but that's not as significant a concern for consumers, who show an aversion to ad overload in larger numbers. Brands have faced growing criticism that they are too stringent with their brand-safety standards, often forgoing legitimate news that touches on divisive but important subjects like politics or the pandemic.
Four in 10 consumers surveyed for the study claim they now check their smartphone once "every few minutes," and 32% of respondents view social media ads as excessive. Engagement with social media and mobile devices has broadly climbed amid the pandemic as people look to stay connected and informed, a trend that opens opportunities for marketers but also carries downsides.
However, social media showed clear strengths as a marketing channel, with 21% of respondents saying ads on the channel are personalized compared to 14% who said the same for the web and just 9% who said the same for TV. In contrast, website ads were mostly seen as excessive (32%), distracting (31%) and intrusive (27%), with few (10%) reporting they stand out as memorable. The level of distaste for digital advertising can lead to actions that might further harm marketing personalization.
Three in 10 of those surveyed said they deleted cookies from their device when asked what specific activities they do after seeing ads. Fifty-three percent reported having skipped a video ad in the past week, while 40% watched one to completion. Overall, 37% of consumers receive ads they simply believe are irrelevant.
In terms of tactics consumers welcome, half wanted to see ads that offer product information, speaking to a receptiveness to more utilitarian marketing. Deals and discounts were desired by 40% of respondents, beating out the demand for entertaining ads expressed by 39% of those surveyed. Only one-third wanted to see ads that taught them something new; outreach around the pandemic ranked even lower, with just 12% expressing an interest in ads related to a brand's COVID-19 response.
The study underpins some of the challenges marketers will face as online ad-targeting grows more difficult with the deprecation of third-party cookies and Apple's decision to make its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) an opt-in feature for mobile users. Platforms that rely on targeted advertisements, including Facebook, are steeling themselves for the IDFA changes, which some analysts forecast will leave a severe dent on revenue.