06/04 By IAS Team

iMedia Connection: The many ways people are ignoring your ads

People love to hate ads. Just give them the opportunity and they will tell you all about it. Many companies associated with advertising receive ‘hate mail,’ consumer articles about advertising always get nasty comments, and those poor advertisers’ customer service teams are subject to a constant stream of complaints. But the untold secret is that most consumers tolerate ads because they understand the value exchange — they are exposed to ads and in return get access to free content and online experiences.

Publishers and advertisers work hard to get users to pay attention. Publishers try to optimize ad placement and ad units, and advertisers work on the right brand message and creative that will get users to stop what they are doing and engage with their ad. In the early days of the internet, it was easy — a simple banner ad did the trick, and users happily clicked and engaged with brands. As the novelty wore off, users started to develop ‘banner blindness,’ a phenomenon where users consciously or subconsciously ignore banner ads. The advertising community fought back with rich media, skyscrapers, and those awful in-your-face pop ups (thank goodness for pop up blockers!).Social media introduced a new way to engage with consumers; brands became publishers and user engagement was measured in Facebook ‘likes,’ comments, video views, and tweets. The trend of ‘brands as publishers’ continued into ‘native advertising,’ where brands attempt to reach users in the flow of their online activities and provide relevant sponsored content. The jury is still out in terms of the ability to engage with users using “native advertising,” as success metrics are still up in the air.

Despite the progress that we’ve seen in new channels, ad formats, and the way media is bought and evaluated, we are still seeing budgets poured into display advertising because it works. Yes, users still have ‘banner blindness’ and love to hate your ads, but in a world where people are spending more and more time on the internet, display advertising allows advertisers to reach users at scale. While in the early days users would be more likely to click on the first ad they saw, today it will take a bigger effort, a stronger message, engaging creative, and multiple attempts to lure them in — but they will, as proven by advertisers’ continued investment  in this channel.

There are several reasons why ads are ignored, and we can’t blame users for it — the advertiser can, and should, address them all.

Contextual relevance

When advertisers focus on the brand message, creative, and ad format — but forget to ensure the relevance of media placements — they unknowingly aid users in ignoring their ads.

The most obvious thing to consider is contextual relevance between the brand and the site where the ad is placed. Consider a U.S. based national hamburger restaurant chain targeting men 18 to 34. Even with a perfect message and enticing creative, if the ad ran on a ‘mommy blog,’ there is a slim chance that users (mostly mommies) will engage. Now consider the ad was served to users in Australia where the chain doesn’t even have any restaurants — the ad is sure to be ignored by the Australian users due to complete lack of relevance. This advertiser has a higher chance of getting its ads noticed on sites that are contextually relevant to the user’s interests (such as a sports site), while ensuring the ads are served in the appropriate geo-location.


Another critical reason for ads missing their target is ads that are not ‘in-view.’ The common web page layout is designed to fit as many ads as possible. Consider how long some web pages are and how often you actually have the interest or patience to scroll all the way down to the very bottom. Ads that are placed out-of-view are ignored by definition and are useless for advertisers. With more than 50 percent of ads never in-view, we make it easy for ads to be ignored. The numbers are astonishing. However, the viewability cloud has a real silver lining: The industry has now taken action to help advertisers and publishers find a common ground, where ads purchased have a better chance to be in-view. Earlier this year, the MRC lifted its advisory against transacting on viewable ads. This is a step in the right direction to reach a more accurate and effective industry measurement.


Fraudsters are also in the way between your ads and your potential customers. Did you know that 14 percent (!) of ads today are served to bots (who do not eat hamburgers…)? Digital fraud is an easy to operate, profitable business, and botnet operators are hard at work consuming your ads.

These key issues of contextual relevance, viewability, and fraud result in up to 65 percent of your ads potentially being ignored! So, aside from user ‘banner blindness’ or dislike of ads, the advertiser can address the key issues that make the difference between ads that are ignored and ads that are viewed and engaged — in the end, it all boils down to media quality.

Media quality, powered by technology

Technology has changed the way that we buy and sell media and, along with all the obvious benefits, some of the side effects include lack of control for advertisers and media quality concerns. Luckily, technology tools are available to help advertisers regain control over their campaigns and ensure the right media quality for their brand.

To wit, advertisers can enforce brand safe, contextually relevant placement that are served geographically as intended. Additionally, advertisers can monitor the viewability of their campaigns — and even target for viewability in programmatic buying. Lastly, real-time fraud prevention signals can help advertisers avoid serving their ads to non-human traffic, and the use of dynamic data can help target non-fraudulent traffic in programmatic media buys.

The MRC has taken the initiative to accredit vendors and to report on their technology capabilities. It is now up to the advertiser to select the vendor with the best technology to make its advertising work.

Read more here.