Fear Of Advertising: Consumers Dislike Online Ads, But They Value Email

Consumers are fed up with online advertising, and who can blame them? Click on almost any piece of content, and you’re bound to be hit with a pop-up ad blocking the page. And that ad will often be irrelevant or an out-and-out fraud. 

People dislike this experience, and they will walk away from brands that deliver it, according to a global study from Rakuten Marketing, conducted by Qualtrics. Worse, of 2,500 people surveyed, two-thirds see online advertising in the same light as fake news and other aggravating content. 

Many consumers feel disenfranchised, Rakuten says. And more than eight out of ten say that advertising interrupts their online experience.

But they don’t object to email. When asked to rate the most interruptive formats, the respondents put email near the bottom.

Why did email perform so well? Because it’s less intrusive and more predictable — not in your face. And since you’ve probably subscribed to it, it’s probably about something that interests you.  



“The ad formats that consumers label as most interruptive are those that pop-up and cover content, pre-roll video ads, and ads that are delivered through push notification,” Rakuten writes.  

Right. The only two formats that came out better than email on this question were blog/social links and coupon links.

But here’s where email really shines. Email came in second when respondents were asked for their most valuable ad formats. The single more popular one was coupon links.

The third most valued form — and it was considerably lower than the top two — was blog/social links.

How did email get into this winner’s circle?

“The ad formats that consumers recognize as most valuable are seamlessly integrated into web content, or let the consumer opt in,” Rakuten writes. “Examples include coupon links, emails and social advertising.”

Of course, this doesn’t get email off the hook, especially when it’s part of an online program. People can click through an engaging email and end up being enraged by the site.

Here’s the proof. Not that they all responded to emails, but 35% have had a bad experience with an online ad. And this can hurt a brand — 45% of consumers will abandon a site when this has happened to them, and 28% will avoid the site altogether. Finally, 26% will “clear their cookies to stop receiving with a brand,” Rakuten writes.

Are you marketing to people by gender? Note that men are more 41% more likely than women to use an ad blocker, 16% more likely to opt out of ads, and 17% more likely to clear their cookies.

As for other irritants: 61% have felt a brand was advertising too frequently, and 79% have noticed getting ads for item they have already purchased. In general, 63% feel online advertising needs to improve, and 80% say “online advertising hasn’t gotten any better on any device or platform.”

Not that it's news, but a 2015 Adobe report shows that ad blocking costs the industry more than $20 billion in revenue. That figure has probably gone up since then.

So how do you avoid being blocked? Above all, respondents demand less ad frequency and more pinpointed personalization from advertisers, so Rakuten recommends the following:

  • Better personalization — Not easy to achieve. Rakuten writes: "Before ad personalization can improve, we need to stop looking at advertising metrics as if they only exist in-and-of themselves, and start looking in the context of the broader consumer journey. "
  • Transparency — Let people know what you’re doing with whom. Nearly all the people in this survey say that “advertising should clearly disclose e-commerce partners like bloggers and influencers,” Rakuten writes. 
  • Actionable data insights — Trip up here, and “ad revenue will continue to be lost to ad blocking and content subscription models,” Rakuten warns. 

Finally, you can embrace the slogan offered by Rakuten:

Save the Web.


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