Audiences want more control over the digital advertising they see, and want to get more in exchange for the ads they are shown, according to a new survey done by Interpublic Group’s Magna and the privacy-focused Brave web browser. While most people understand the role online ads play in supporting content, most say ads are too numerous--and too intrusive.
The results also painted a dire look at ad tracking, with 70% agreeing that it was creepy to see online ads for products previously searched and 60% feeling as though they were constantly being tracked by advertisers online.
“People feel completely bombarded with ads, and that’s been the main driver for negative ad sentiment,” said Kara Manatt, SVP of intelligent solutions at Magna. “They don’t want to feel trapped and want more control over their ad experiences.”
Most people don’t love or trust the ads they are served, with 80% saying they don’t trust online ads, 74% saying they are not open to seeing online ads, and 74% saying they hate online ads.
The intrusiveness of online advertising has become a heated topic in ad tech, and has led to action from lawmakers passing data regulation and privacy legislation, like Europe’s GDPR and California’s CCPA. The controversy has also led to companies like Google and Apple phasing out third-party cookies and identifiers, creating a rush within the advertising industry to find new ways to target ads without cookies.
But while the survey painted an unflattering portrait of digital ads and ad tracking methods, it also found that most audiences were not fundamentally opposed to online ads. 67% of Gen Z and 64% of Millennials agreed that online ads served an important purpose. (That number dropped to 61% within Gen X respondents and climbed to 65% of Boomers.)
According to the survey, the problem could lie in the value people were getting in return for being shown digital ads. 80% of respondents felt they didn’t get much in return for the online ads they saw, with 67% of respondents said there were too many ads on the internet and felt bombarded and 64% saying online ads interfered with their web experience.
But ad blocking is not the top go-to solution. 79% of survey respondents say the most appealing option would be to control the number of online ads they see daily, while 77% said they wanted online ads that are privacy protected. In comparison, 73% wanted a browser that blocks ads. The survey also found several popular solutions, like ads that tell a story, show previously searched products or letting audiences choose what brands served ads, were not as appealing or valuable to their ad experience as control and ads that don’t use personal data.
“We need to innovate, and for advertisers, they should be considering new and different ad environments,” says Manatt. Advertisers need to give consumers different options, or risk losing audiences to ad-free environments like Netflix, Disney+, and other SVOD services, she says. Not fixing the problem could destroy what little remaining trust there is between audiences and advertisers.
“There are two options: you see a lot of ads, you feel trapped, but you get free content. On the very opposite, there’s the Netflix paradigm. You are paying for great content but no ads,” says Manatt, who adds that people are not saying they want to block all ads. “I think the results show us there’s a need for options in the middle.”