Consumers Complain More About Digital Ad Content, But What About Clutter?


Complaining about TV commercials is a longtime consumer pastime. Now consumers have another whipping post when it comes to ad messaging: the Internet.

The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority says there was a 300% rise in complaints concerning Internet advertising during 2011-- to just below 10,000. A study says such complaints will soon top those about TV commercials.

In this country, much of the focus in consumer complaints stems from so-called “misleading” advertising. Recently, for example, POM Wonderful – a beverage with pomegranate fruit juice as a key ingredient -- has been claiming health benefits in its advertising. But a Federal Trade Commission administrative law judge ruled the company’s claims were unsubstantiated – and it sued the company. In return, POM came back with an ad campaign -- "FTC v. POM - You be the judge."



Health claims have always been a major issue for U.S. consumers. Ad clutter has probably been less of an issue, specifically because nearly 45% of U.S. TV homes have a DVR device and can skip commercials. (In this regard, the U.K. survey found that TV advertising complaints were down 20% in 2011 -- to 11,245.)

If we have a complaint – at all – with TV commercials, it is that no matter how hard to we try to be precise in our fast-forwarding, there is always some  part of TV commercial we see, either at the beginning or the end of a commercial pod.

But commercial avoidance can’t be done to the same degree on the Internet. There’s video that can’t be fast-forwarded at all; there are display ads that your eyes always go to; there’s rich media advertising with complicated animation that can’t be stopped and that blocks whatever we want to read. (That said, we can now multi-task– text, tweet, or whatever – while we wait for a commercial message to do its thing.)

All this meansconsumers worldwide will have an easy mark to complain loudly about Internet advertising clutter because there are no real DVR-like technological controls. The only solution is to move along to other websites, other areas -- until someone develops a controversial app for our smartphones or tablets that might do to that work. Then prepare for another kind of advertising revolution.


1 comment about "Consumers Complain More About Digital Ad Content, But What About Clutter?".
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  1. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, June 1, 2012 at 5:59 p.m.

    Excellent thinking. My only quibble would be that its EXTRAORDINARILY easy to skip ads online. My video ad SOP? Open another window to do what I'd rather do than watch that pre-roll ad. (OR, more often, simply skip the bit - it needs to be REALLY important before I'll hold on through a pre-roll.) Seems the internet is training people to skip ads (both mentally and in actuality) far more than they'd ever skip them on a DVR.

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