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The Peril of Terrible Ads

Certain display ads draw ire

Marketers have long had to perform a tough balancing act—ensuring that they get their message out while stopping shy of annoying prospective customers. But a March 2013 survey of adult US internet users from InsightsOne revealed that ad messaging may need some fine-tuning to keep from turning off consumers. More than nine in 10 internet users reported encountering an annoying ad somewhere, according to the poll.

InsightsOne, which creates marketing analytics software, found that ads in emails and sidebars and on websites were the second- and third-leading sources of annoying advertising among respondents, trailing only TV. Respondents also found social media ads just as annoying as junk mail.

Among types of online ads, irrelevant pop-up ads irked the greatest percentage of respondents (79%). The next three most annoying digital ad types consisted of various types of spam. But nearly six in 10 respondents acknowledged being annoyed by ads for products and services they did not need or want, underscoring how important targeting advertising to its intended audience has become.

Of those who had been overwhelmed by online ad spam, more than one-third said they would leave the website they were on as a result. Six out of 10 were content to unsubscribe from future emails, while another 45% indicated that they would simply ignore new email messages from offending advertisers. More than one in 10 would either stop using the product advertised, or completely boycott the company who had bought the ads.

While it should be noted that many of the most annoying ad campaigns originated with the least legitimate advertisers, the reality is that all advertisers can suffer as a result of these poorly conceived and executed campaigns. Thoughtful marketers have to work to make sure their content is getting in front of the right people, and be careful that their messaging does not overwhelm potential customers and alienate them.


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