Are brands wasting money on ‘annoying’ digital ads?

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In the rapidly evolving landscape of digital marketing, a new study by Picnic, in collaboration with YouGov, has brought to light a critical aspect often overlooked in advertising strategies: the user experience.

This research, encompassing a broad spectrum of digital consumers, reveals a startling truth: a staggering 70% of consumers find digital advertisements more irksome than engaging. Furthermore, 72% of these individuals report a noticeable decline in their perception of a brand following negative ad experiences.

This situation raises a pressing question for the advertising world: Are current digital ad strategies misaligned with consumer preferences, and by extension, is this leading to wasted investment and tarnished brand images?


Matthew Goldhill, Founder & CEO of Picnic, suggests a revaluation of the status quo. "It's not just about reducing the number of ads or making them visually appealing. The focus should be on reinventing the ad experience from the ground up, with the user's experience as the central pillar," he advocates. This call for a user-first approach in digital advertising underlines the potential for a transformative impact on consumer engagement and brand loyalty.

The study not only highlights consumer aversion to current digital ad formats but also uncovers a nuanced relationship between consumers and online advertising. Despite their frustrations, a majority (56%) of respondents expressed appreciation for free, ad-supported content.

This paradox underscores a critical opportunity: the problem isn't inherently with digital advertising, but rather with its execution. In an encouraging sign, 71% of participants indicated they would view digital ads more favourably if they were quick to load and less disruptive in nature.

Echoing this sentiment, Sean Golding, Digital Development Director at AKA UK, emphasises the necessity for ad strategies that prioritise user experience while ensuring brand safety. "The balance lies in crafting ad content that resonates with and respects the user, leading to not only enhanced brand perception but also more efficient ad spending," Golding points out. This approach aims to create a digital environment where advertisements are not merely tolerated but actively welcomed by consumers.


Key Insights from the Survey:

  • A clear majority (70%) of consumers are annoyed by the current state of digital advertising.
  • Intrusive advertising experiences negatively impact brand perception for 72% of users.
  • Overwhelming ad presence leads to avoidance for 86% of consumers.
  • A significant shift in ad strategy could foster a more positive consumer response.

These insights present a compelling case for brands to reevaluate their digital advertising strategies. By aligning their approaches with consumer expectations for non-intrusive, relevant, and user-friendly advertisements, brands can transition from being a source of digital annoyance to a valued part of the consumer's online experience.

This shift necessitates a deeper understanding of consumer behaviour and preferences. Brands should leverage advanced analytics and consumer feedback to create targeted, personalised ad experiences. This personalisation, when done respectfully and unobtrusively, can significantly enhance the effectiveness of digital campaigns.


In addition to rethinking ad content and delivery, there's a growing need for brands to consider the ethical implications of their advertising strategies. This includes respecting user privacy, avoiding deceptive practices, and ensuring that ads contribute positively to the digital ecosystem.

The advent of technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) also presents new frontiers for digital advertising. These technologies offer immersive and interactive experiences that, if used creatively, can turn advertisements into engaging and memorable experiences rather than unwanted interruptions.

In conclusion, the study could serve as a clarion call for a strategic overhaul in the digital advertising domain. By embracing a user-centric approach, incorporating advanced technologies, and prioritising ethical practices, brands can reinvent digital advertising into a powerful tool for positive engagement and sustainable brand growth. This paradigm shift promises not just a more harmonious digital experience for consumers but a potential goldmine of innovation for brands.

Images by Richard Hill


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