Media money has shifted to less-liked ad formats

by Nigel Hollis | September 13, 2017

According to a Lightspeed survey conducted in Asia, 86 percent of the people interviewed stated they were seeing more online advertising than they did three years ago. Of course, they are right, the number of digital ads has skyrocketed over the last few years which means that more money is going to ad formats that people actively dislike.

The proportion of people saying that they are seeing more ads online in Asia is remarkably similar to the 87 percent say of people are seeing a lot more online ads than they did in last year’s Hubspot Adblock Plus Research Study. And, as I said, they are right. Kantar Media’s Annual Ad Counts shows a steep rise in the number of digital ads (including display, search, video and mobile) since 2010, far outdistancing the ad count in other media channels.

This in itself is nothing new, but when pulling together a presentation the other day I was struck by the fact that the dramatic shift of media budgets from traditional channels to digital means that not only are people seeing more ads overall, more of them are formats that people actively dislike.

This revelation was driven home by a chart from AdReaction: Gen x, Y, Z which summarizes people’s net positivity to different ad formats. Net positivity is simply the proportion of people who claim to be positive to a specific ad format minus the negative proportion. The chart ranks the ad formats from most positive to least. Outdoor, magazine and newspaper ads rank as most positive, followed by TV, with online and mobile display and video being the least liked.


This finding is hardly surprising except, of course, if we take into account the volume of ads seen in each medium. As media budgets have shifted from traditional channels to digital, and people spend more time using digital devices, the number of ads that people see in formats they are less receptive to will have gone up significantly. And, in all likelihood, the trend is continuing as more money shifts to mobile where advertising is the least liked.

While you can’t put the genie back in the bottle, at least the industry should be aware of people’s antipathy toward digital ad formats and try to avoid unnecessarily adding to the negativity. As Duncan Southgate notes in this post advertisers need to create more compelling content, publishers need to reduce advertising clutter, and media agencies need to improve targeting, using more frequency capping and judicious retargeting to reduce irritation, otherwise ad avoidance of all sorts is just going to rise.

If nothing else, advertisers should at least pre-test their ads to ensure they are as engaging as possible in the context in which they are to be shown, don’t you think? Please share your thoughts.


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  1. Emmanuel Probst, September 27, 2017

    Indeed, we see media budgets shifting towards online and particularly mobile in-app and Social. Advertisers often put too much emphasis on the media channel, which gives them 'access' to specific audience groups but not 'permission' to disrupt people's experience. Besides choosing the right media channel and publishers, Advertisers should:

    -(as you said) pre-test their ads to ensure they are engaging for the specific target audience

    -Create ads formatted for each media channel (i.e. a 30' TV spot does not work so well as a pre-roll on YouTube)

    -Leverage programmatic to expose people to ads that are relevant to them. I appreciate this is easier said than done but that's where most of the media allocation is wasted. This afternoon, I was exposed to ads for a wedding planning service, a stroller and an online degree. I have been married 12 years, my youngest son is 8 and hold 3 degrees. I would never even consider any of these products.

  2. Julian Green, September 13, 2017
    Right content for the right channel in the right context! Sadly, planners and creatives are not aligned or 'getting it right'. I realise I am making a sweeping comment here, but I do feel we are chucking out homogenized content, hoping some will stick. Somewhere. Hopefully. When i am receptive.

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