Everyone Hates Your Most Effective Online Ads

Angry LadyBanner ads work. Banner ads don’t work. Banner ads are just wallpaper.

It doesn’t matter what your opinion is of banner ads, someone out there has a study that will agree with your position.

However, as online publishers develop new “higher impact” online ads, recently published results should serve as a warning to both publishers and advertisers::

Don’t allow ads to come between your audience and the content they are looking for.

The results from these ads can be misleading. Yes, they deliver a high click rate, but at what cost? How many people do they piss off?

People Hate Interruptive Ads

The latest study compares pre-roll ads, a classic example of putting ads between the audience and the content they are looking for, and straight embedded video ads. The results are telling:

People exposed to pre-roll were 29.3% more likely to think unfavorably of the brand! (source)

We have known for years that consumers don’t like disruptive advertising, and some of the more obnoxious formats have mostly disappeared (ie popups). However, every time a new interruptive ad format is introduced, it is aggressively adopted by marketers until consumers find a way to avoid it (ie popup blockers).

As marketers, why do we have to wait for consumers to find a way to block ads? We know the very individuals we are looking to endear ourselves with hate these ads, but we set aside any concerns we may have of favor of a positive measured result from less than 1% of recipients.

How Advertisers Still Interrupt With Ads

Despite wanting to create a positive impression with people who hate interruptive advertising, marketers and publishers continue to embrace interruptive formats. Here are just a few common offenders:

  • Pre-Roll Ads. Advertisers are saying “watch our 30 second ad before you can see the video you are looking for.” Adding insult to injury, it still continues to be the same ad, over and over again, often for only a couple of minutes of real content. No wonder consumers have a negative view of a pre-roll advertising brands in the study referenced above.
  • Welcome Ads. Ads that intercept you on the way to a page or piece of content, taking over the entire page with a large format banner, are anything but welcoming, despite the common “welcome ad” name. Yes, click rates are high, but bounce rates are high as well, as people looking to skip the ad accidentally click instead.
  • Auto Expanded Ads. Similar to a welcome ad, these ads take over nearly the entire screen, pushing down content until they close or collapse, often after 7 seconds.
  • Auto-Play Video Ads. Often these are combined with pre-roll, playing automatically, with sound on, when a page initially loads.

You Need To Care

Do you carefully shepherd your brand, monitoring frequency and avoiding programs that could undermine the brand equity you have built to date? If so, interruptive advertising is the wolf in sheep’s clothing in your marketing.

Your Turn

What other ad formats or marketing tactics are so obnoxious that they actually undermine a marketing plan, in spite of any positive measured results they may drive?

Share your examples in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

Photo Credit: M. Pratter via Flickr cc

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  • Good call Eric. I would be curious to see some stats on how adopting these type of ads effect traffic and engagement onsite. My bet is that while there may be an increase in CTRs there would be an equal or greater number that never return to the site again. I’m thinking bounce rates will go up, pages/visit and unique visitors will go down.

    • Jeff, good questions. Maybe someone from the publishing side will chime in here. I suspect, though, this is why they add the skip or close buttons. Publishers get to sell the premium inventory even though many users just immediately skip past it.

      • Yeah, I could see that. I did some digging and chatting with local experts on the matter and the word is that people get a significant return on these ads. Apparently the inconvenience factor barely effects website performance in the negative and mostly in the positive. If I find quantitative facts, I’ll post them here for you and your readers.

        • I know, and I’ve seen many of the results. As the study referenced in the post shows though, interruptive advertising may have a negative impact many marketers never measure. One of marketing’s (other) measurement problems is that we only measure the positive outcome, we don’t measure pissing people off.

          I believe if more people measured that, we would have a different view of some of these interruptive formats. (FWIW, marketers considered calling during the dinner hour to have a good return as well.)

  • geofflivingston

    I think ads have to serve the larger context. If they don’t bridge between company and stakeholder in a meaningful way, they are useless. And that’s a huge problem…

    • Geoff, you are right, and particularly online, many marketers still don’t invest in good creative and associated landing pages that can deliver that bridge.

      Hmm, possibly an idea for a future post… thanks Geoff!

  • Eric, your comment “every time a new interruptive ad format is introduced, it is
    aggressively adopted by marketers until consumers find a way to avoid it” reminds me of what Gary Vaynerchuk said in this keynote: “Marketers ruin everything.” Here’s the clip: http://youtu.be/DNVTqfvFHPU?t=14m40s

    • Yep, somehow we keep doing that. Particularly disappointing since B2B marketers in particular usually say they are looking to serve or help their audience, in some way making their lives or work better. Thanks for the comment!

  • Charmon Stiles

    Eric, I completely agree with you. I find those ads an annoyance, therefore wouldn’t want our web visitors to experience the same feeling about our brand. I can see a direct correlation between the ads and a higher bounce rate. If your web site visitors are leaving, how are the ads helping you reach your goals? I tend to stick with the less ‘in your face’ approach.

    • Thanks Charmon. To clarify, are you seeing a correlation with bounce rates as an advertiser running this kind of creative or are you a publisher and seeing this kind of creative drive our audience away?

      From an advertisers perspective, I’ve consistently seen higher bounce rates from interruptive ads as well as things like clickable site skins. Basically anything that captures lots of accidental clicks will drive up bounce rates.

  • RobinDally

    Interesting post… right now I’m particularly interested in re-marketing. We are using it very successfully for a client. ( we get good clicks and conversions) but there has also been some public unhappiness about it on twitter….’Why do you guys keep hassling me with your ads’. Since the bit of public unhappiness we’ve reduced the ads to be shown 3 times to a person per day instead of 7. As a result, clicks and conversions have gone down, a happy compromise for now. Personally I don’t mind re-marketing at all, but then I’m a marketer!

    • Robin, you are right, as marketers we often see marketing very differently.

      I definitely hear more people say they are annoyed by retargeting, in part because it is now so effective and, like your experience, the only way to scale it is to serve even more ads to each person.

      Make certain you understand how your provider caps frequency, is it for each “campaign” (ie if you have different messages triggered from different pages), is it by size, or is it really overall across all of your retargeting. Each provider is a bit different.

      This post might be helpful as well: http://b2bdigital.net/2011/12/08/retargeting-how-to/

  • Eric, I completely agree with you. I find those ads an annoyance, therefore wouldn’t want our web visitors to experience the same feeling about our brand.