Advertising may play an important role for both businesses and news publishers, but to the public, they’re little more than an annoyance.
“This might not come as a big surprise to many people, but mainly people don’t love advertising,” said Christian Bø, insight and strategy director at global media and communications agency Mindshare, during this week’s Webinar.
For the last seven years, Mindshare has measured consumer attitudes toward advertising and has noted that, since 2016, there has been a dramatic increase in annoyance. Such ad annoyance can lead to decreased viewership and readership, which presents a revenue challenge for ad-dependent news media companies. He shared his findings during The issue of ad annoyance and how to combat it and offered solutions for publishers.
“There are, in general, negative associations towards advertising,” Bø said. “People say it’s too much, it’s repetitive, it’s intrusive. They also say that it’s too personal…. advertising, in general, is something that people don’t really want.”
Audiences are less willing today to tolerate advertising in exchange for content: In 2019, about 55% of people would accept ads to acquire content for free; now that number has dropped to 47%. And, not surprisingly, the willingness to pay for content to avoid ads is rising, up from 29% in 2019 to 40% in 2022: “That might be a good number for many subscription services; however, for ads, it’s not really great.
Who’s the most irritated?
At the same time ad irritation is increasing, the attention consumers pay to advertising is declining. According to Bø, consumers are more likely to say they don’t notice or remember ads. That inattention and irritation differs by demographics, with men more likely to be irritated by advertising than women. Younger consumers (under the age of 44) express a greater level of ad irritation.
Mindshare also found digital audiences have the highest level of ad irritation and the lowest level of ad attention, with online video topping the list of formats with the greatest level of irritation. The least irritating types of advertising were trials in store, store advertising, sponsorships, outdoor, magazine, books, newspapers, and cinema.
In contrast to what consumers find least annoying is the fact that advertisers want to spend their money in the channels that have the highest level of irritation, such as online video and social media.
What’s driving ad irritation?
Through consumer research, Mindshare has identified the 10 key drivers for ad irritation:
- Advertising is interruptive.
- The ads are forced.
- The content is bad or annoying.
- The ads are irrelevant.
- The ads are intrusive and too personal.
- The ads have a high duration.
- The ad frequency is high and repetitive.
- The increased use of non-ad media platforms.
- The increase in digital consumption.
- Increased focus on the short term.
Because other platforms such as Spotify and Netflix now offer ad-free experiences, Bø said consumers are accustomed to watching a show or listening to music without interruptions – and that is driving ad irritation. This creates a dilemma for companies that sell advertising but offer an ad-free option: “It’s kind of ironic that those that are living off of ad money are also talking about it as something that you can skip or don’t have to get if you pay for it.”
Where do we go from here?
Ad attention and awareness continues declining, along with people’s acceptance of advertising, which is something publishers should pay attention to. Consumers are less likely to enjoy ads and they also trust them less. People are now more likely to use adblocking devices, further reducing the effectiveness and reach of ads. But there are still steps that publishers can take to work around the growing ad irritation, Bø said, and that begins with looking at key drivers they have control over. That means avoiding the factors that lead to irritation, and Bø offered the company’s Irritation Formula as an example of what not to do:
“What is great about this formula is that we can actually do something about all of this,” Bø said. “We can select media that is less interruptive. We can choose formats that are not that forced. We can create better content; we can make it relevant either by what we’re talking about or we can be careful on how we use data and how personal it is. We can control the duration and we can course control the frequency.”
While publishers may not have a say over, for example, the advertisers’ content, they can control some of the other factors to reduce irritation. And they may need to think differently about how, when, and where they serve advertising to their customers.
Each publisher can take individual steps toward change, but Bø emphasised the need for industry-wide reform, noting that the current structure looks like a game of cat-and-mouse: “At the moment we’re just chasing consumers, and they move and then we move somewhere tracking to figure out what they want and where they are. So we need to change the way of thinking about that.”
One way to do that is to look at where ad irritation is highest and choose not to offer that form of advertising, Bø said. New creative solutions are needed, such as offering interactive video ads on a show. Instead of a pre-roll or mid-roll ad, the programme could offer information on where to buy the products being used in the show.
Other things Mindshare is looking at are “rewarded ads,” which offer credits or money that can support nonprofit organisations if people watch the ads. “[This] is a very different way of looking at ads and actually rewarding nonprofit organisations by attention,” he said.
The final piece, according to Bø, is to look at inventory. Decreasing ad inventory can improve results for advertisers by allowing their ads to receive more attention: “Having 20 ads instead of 50 ads is much better. This means that you’ll lower frequency and lower impressions in general, but … it’ll create higher retention for consumers, and you can also charge a better price because the retention will be bigger.”
Despite the many challenges, Bø reminded INMA members that there are solutions that can be achieved through new ways of thinking and product development. But it isn’t a problem that can be solved in a silo: “I truly believe that this has to be a cooperation between agencies, media, publishers, tech companies, and advertisers,” he said.
“This can’t be fixed by one agency or by one media outlet. It’s something that we have to work together to solve.”