Annoying Ads Online Or On TV: Pick Your Poison

Somebody out there can source this, I’m sure. The joke is that a anti-establishment type is asked by some official-like person: “Do you favor the overthrow of the government by violence or subversion” and replies, “Is this a yes-no question or do I get a choice?”

Anyway, I thought about that recently after reading a headline in an essay section of the Millward Brown Web site. It reads, “Individual online ads are not more irritating than TV ads.”

Well, I thought, that’s truly one small step for mankind. Irritating? Absolutely. More irritating? Maybe not.

Headline notwithstanding, the thoughtful essay was penned by Millward Brown’s Nigel Hollis, the executive vice president and chief global analyst over there. He was commenting on a WARC study trying to figure out why consumers seem to have a dimmer view of online video advertising than they do advertising on TV.



But Hollis said the new study says the difference may be individual online ads, not all of them. Bad online ads turn off consumers more than if that ad was on TV, but good, interesting ads do “ten times” better.

What’s going on here? Hollis has a theory. “I think it all comes back to how we consume the two media,” he writes.  “We expect to be in control of our online experience, and more often than not we are task oriented, looking for content that will be immediately relevant to us. Ads irrelevant to that task at hand are annoyances and to be avoided.”

But he says TV “mostly remains a passive viewing experience ... We may not attend to the ads much, but we still get exposed to them because there is no imperative to do otherwise. I believe that the true power of TV lies in the very indifference of its viewers because they watch ads for brands that they would not otherwise” care about. Online viewers “are not going to waste time on something that is irrelevant at that moment.”

And passive TV viewers will waste that time.

It may be entirely possible that there is another reason.

Television has been around and at full throttle for more than five decades. Viewers know the drill and they know how to avoid ads, or, to put it in another accurate term, tune them out. Online video advertising is newer and keeps calling attention to the fact it wasn’t really invited on to your desktop in the first place. After so many years of TV viewing, there’s an internal clock that tells you the ads are about over so you can get back to balancing the checkbook later. You know your enemy.

But those little online ad pre-interruptions aren’t long enough to give a user something useful to do. Hence, they’re more annoying, and online viewers, knowing they are still the guinea pigs for a new advertising source, have no advantage in telling anybody they really like pre-roll ads or any ads at all. Television existed for a long time before ad-free PBS and HBO. Online video grew up without advertising and its most prestigious place is Netflix. Ads do seem like an intrusion.

But there they are. In the end, the best idea is to make good ads, and then present them to the right people.

3 comments about "Annoying Ads Online Or On TV: Pick Your Poison".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, May 15, 2015 at 11:01 a.m.

    I see merit in both explanations. And you're both likely correct. But I dispute that the right people appreciate good ads that they are forced to watch. Without consent, it doesn't matter how good the experience is.

  2. Ruth Barrett from, May 15, 2015 at 11:43 a.m.

    As someone who watches nothing but online programming, one can imagine a number of different reasons why I subscribe to Netflix,, PBS with only three"network" programs through xfinity and a now and again Amazon but one reason is to escape advertising whenever possible.  I used to watch NBC nightly news via podcast every evening, 21 minutes, no ads, and in depth weather reports along with a smattering of news.  They ended podcasts recently and now when I watch NBC Nightly News it's a series of "clips" somewhat inexpertly edited, often cutting Lester off in the middle of a word, and the sequence now is to start with a 30 second add, 1:50 minute clip, a 15 second ad, a 1:15 minute clip, a .30 second ad, a 2:04 minute clip, a .30 second ad through to ten clips. Does anyone at NBC News actually watch the online programming? I've ask that of many of the customer support folks at xfinity (where ads can get on a loop that never ends) and have yet to find one person on the phones who watches online.  Oddly, one of the clips is about the report from Microsoft that our attention span at 8 seconds is now a second shorter than that of a goldfish. Seems long to me given what we are putting up with in terms of programming and advertising. 

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 15, 2015 at 12:31 p.m.

    We have to remember that ever since its inception TV has been an advertising medium and most people have come to accept that commercials pay for much of the fare they watch and enjoy. This sentiment has been eroding over the past 25 years as more and more of us have been forced to pay for access to broadcast TV and cable shows via cable systems and statellite distributors----but the general acceptance of TV commercials as "the price to pay for watching our favorite shows" still lingers with many people ( note: I didn't say with all people ).

    In contrast, the Internet has never been ad-friendly. Many publishers invite users to avoid or skip ads and there are other methods---such as ad blockers---to accomplish this purpose. Small wonder, then, that many online visitors and/or users regard ads as annoying interruptions in their perusal of content. The idea that the ads pay for the content has never been sold to them, nor is the way the ads are displayed---pop-ups, for example----conducive to a positive outlook. Imagine how the TV audience would react if, while watching a gripping dramatic scene or a hilarious comedy sequence, an ad suddenly appeared, cutting them off from the program they were enjoying?

Next story loading loading..