The Advertising Landscape

A research project into the current state of traditional & digital advertising

Click each section in order to begin reading

An introduction

It's universally accepted that advertising is no doubt everywhere and that it won't be slowing down anytime soon. It's estimated that Australia's ad market alone will reach almost $16 billion this year (McGowan, 2016). With the country's collective advertising budget increasing yearly, it's important to regularly review and reflect on the industry's current efforts and standards.

This digital report will analyse the current advertising landscape, both digital and traditional, offering insights into the state of the industry. A survey regarding the public's opinion on advertising was also conducted, capturing 135 responses. Click each section in order to uncover how receptive people are in regards to advertising and whether the industry as a whole is meeting or defying customer expectations and demands.

Why do we advertise?

To analyse the advertising landcape, a basic understanding of why businesses advertise needs to be established. While each business has their own approach to the industry, all requiring different outcomes, there are often three key focus areas:

  • To increase brand and product awareness
    In order for businesses to sell their products and services, people need to be aware that such exist. Advertising is often very controlled and targeted, allowing businesses to reach their desired demographics with ease. Potentially finding new customers, or reactivating existing ones.
  • To raise revenue
    It's quite simple, more customers equals more purchases, and therefore more revenue. Advertising often has the ability to reach customers who are ready to buy, and can serve as a reminder or encouragement to complete or consider a transaction.
  • To build brand credibility
    Paying to be in the public eye shows consumers that a business is serious. The perception that you can afford to advertise often sells itself, implying a company is in good financial position, reaffirming their longevity in the industry.

(Jantsch, 2010)

What advertising looks like today

Advertising evolves at such a rapid pace. The current advertising landscape is often defined by four main characteristics:

It's mobile

Over 51% of internet use is carried out on smartphones (Gibbs, 2016). Online technologies have adapted to this trend, delivering adverts on consumers devices.

It's personal

Advertisers are now able to target users based on their demographic, location, interests and internet history. Delivering tailored content to internet users.

It's a mix of old and new

Traditional advertising still has its place in modern society, with most advertisers engaging in multi-channel approaches towards marketing.

It's social

Integrated into social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, advertisers can enter people's newsfeeds with promoted content.

Advertising mediums: both digital & traditional

Digital advertising is no doubt leading the way due to its ease of use, cost effectiveness and measurability. How does this affect more traditional forms of advertising? The following statistics outline market share based on the spends of each form of advertising (Interactive Advertising Bureau Australia, 2017).

1. Online ads

Dominating the marketing industry is online advertising at 48.6%. Of this, 15% is mobile and 5% is video. Search advertising (46%) is the most popular form of online advertising, followed closely by display advertising (36%), and then classifieds (18%).

2. TV

Following is TV with 24.7% market share. In 2016, TV and mobile advertising were on a level playing field of approximately $2.5B spends. TV is expected to remain roughly the same up to 2021, whilst mobile advertising is expected to rocket to $5.7B spends. (Bennett, 2017)

3. Newspaper

At 10.3% is newspaper advertising. Steady readership declines of printed newspapers are no doubt contributing to the diminishing advertising market share. Most newspapers have gone digital, and are seeing high growth in regional digital newspaper subscriptions such as the Townsville Bulletin. (Mediaweek, 2016)

4. Radio

At a small 7.5% radio advertising spends have remained relatively consistent over the past 7 years. However, radio advertising spends are expected to increase very slightly in the future. (McGowan, 2016)

5. Outdoor

Outdoor advertising has allegedly gained in popularity over the past 10 years, however only has an advertising market share of 5.2%

6. Magazines

Facing a similar issue to print newspapers are print magazines. With publications moving digital, advertising spends on print magazines only equate to 2.9% of the market share.

Online advertising: its many forms

The term "online advertising" encompasses a wide range of ad formats. From the most notorious banner ads and popups, to the subtler search ads, almost every website, app or digital service has advertising embedded. Below are screenshots of typical online advertisements.

Search Ads

Search ads display alongside organic search results, appearing based on the user's search terms. Advertisers bid for the highest spot, and pay per click.

Email Newsletters

Email newsletters are sent out by companies on a regular basis to their subscribed readers. They often contain company updates and upcoming sales.

Social Media

Advertisers are able to pay for their social media posts to appear in users' newsfeeds regardless of whether they follow the advertisers' page/account.

Video

Video marketing takes on many forms, both organic and paid. Paid video ads usually appear before the actual video content on websites such as YouTube and news outlets.

Banner & Display

Usually animated, these ads appear throughout many websites either as banners inserted within the page's content, or as sidebar widgets.

Mobile App Ads

A combination of prestitial and display ads, mobile app ads appear inside the application.

Prestitial Ads

Prestitial ads block users from accessing the content they were looking for unless they press a close button, wait a certain amount of time, or engage with the ad. Many popups are prestitial ads.

Retargeting

A combination of all ad types, retargeting is a method of displaying user specific ads based on their website and search history.

The online advertising issue: distrust

Since the late 2010's the headlines, users distrust brands and advertising have slowly been increasing. A recent study revealed that consumers have risen from seeing approximately 500 ads a day (from back in the 1970s) to now approximately 5,000 ads a day (Johnson, 2006). Regardless of whether it's a 30 second TV ad, a quick mention on the radio, or a popup banner ad on your phone, it's evident that consumers are becoming overwhelmed.

PageFair, a company dedicated to measuring the use of online AdBlockers, and monetising AdBlock-proof solutions is constantly gathering data on users' online behaviours. A recent report they released revealed that AdBlocker use spiked in 2015 and is continuing to grow exponentially. Starting at 21M uses in April 2009, as of December 2016 it's estimated that a total of 616M devices use AdBlock (380M on mobile and 236M on desktop)(O'Reilly, 2017).

An article published in 2016 on The Guardian website explained why the numbers are so high. Asking UK users to contribute, they compiled a list of responses from consumers on why they aren't happy with the current state of advertising (Stevens, 2016).

Here are some excerpts from the article:

Consumers are getting smarter, and the "tricks" used to influence us are becoming increasingly obvious.

Online advertising is often done in a way that is obtrusive to the experience you expect when you go to a site. Some sites force you to view a full screen video, when you came to read a text article. In addition, some of these ads cost you more money in data than you would have expected from viewing a page of text and images.

Advertising providers have caused this situation for themselves by allowing their ads to contain phishing links, malware, pornographic images, irritations such as flashing colours and sound, stealing data and draining data allowances. I use an adblocker because I don't trust advertising providers to offer safe content on websites I visit.

I find targeted advertising to be stereotyping, sexist and intrusive.

The consumer needs to have control over the type of adverts they are exposed to while browsing. As a person with autism I am extremely sensitive to adverts which contain loud sounds and flashing images. Often these kinds of adverts will pop up when I'm halfway through watching a video on Youtube and they will actually trigger an autistic meltdown.

I dislike targeted ads that are the result of search history data scraping. Not everything users search for online is of lasting interest to the user. It also feels creepy to constantly be confronted by the fact that your search data has been scraped, when you visit a page and see a targeted ad.


https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/mar/10/why-we-use-adblockers-control-exposed-intrusive-advertising

The industry response

2016 and 2017 saw the emergence of relatively new, innovative advertising ideas, in an effort to win back user trust and increase advertising effectiveness. Below are three popular marketing techniques companies are now widely implementing as a response to market backlash.

Video

With YouTube attracting almost one-third of total internet users alone (YouTube, 2017), it's no surprise that businesses have seized the opportunity. It's estimated that more than 500 million hours of videos are watched on YouTube a day, and that 45% of people watch more than an hour of online video content a week. Digital marketing strategies are now beginning to harness the power of video, with 87% of online marketers posting video content. The return-on-interest (ROI) is incredibly high, and has attributed to many businesses' success (Lister, 2017).

For more video stats, visit WordStream.

Organic content

In attempt to combat the negative stigma surrounding advertising, companies have moved to more subtle methods of online promotion. This includes: sponsored blog posts and news articles, social influencer marketing (such as Instagram product placement) and social media communication (such as discussion forums and Facebook comment threads). Organic content is often hard to distinguish as advertising, as it takes form of existing media and utilises it as a passive form of marketing. Subconciously providing users with information and building positive brand rapport.

Chatbots

Focusing on the growing mobile industry is the steady uptake of chatbots. Built in to messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and Kik, they allow consumers to have seemingly normal conversations with artificial intelligence. With everything moving digital, there is a market demand for instant, real-time information. Chat bots allow customers (and potential customers) to interact with companies instantly 24/7, eliminating the dreaded customer-service wait times (Khan, 2017). Although they aren't an alternative to human interaction, they help users with simple, repetitive enquiries or FAQs.

Has it solved the issue? The importance of a survey

With marketing strategies favouring more organic content such as video and social media interaction, how has this affected the Australian public? Are companies regaining their trust, or has the rise of obtrusive and disruptive digital advertising left a permanent scar with users?

To answer this question, a survey was conducted asking internet users what their thoughts were on both traditional and digital advertising, as well as the advertising industry as a whole. The survey aimed to gather insight as to how Australians felt about advertising, and whether more could be done to improve the consumer experience.

Survey methodology

The survey was conducted over the period of 10 days, beginning on the 16th of August 2017. The survey was created digitally using Google Forms, a free online survey creation platform. Users were invited to take part in the survey receiving a link via Facebook Messenger or SMS. Attracting 135 responses, majority were from people aged 18 to 24 and were based in Townsville, Queensland. A young audience was selected for the survey, as they would have most likely grown up with advertising, and would have a higher exposure to digital advertising as compared to older generations. Just over half were university students, and majority were female. Users had the ability to complete the survey anonymously if they desired, and providing personally identifiable information was optional. The survey was comprised of mainly multiple choice questions, however respondents had the opportunity to elaborate on their choices throughout the survey with a variety of optional paragraph response questions.

The survey was received with positive results, and plenty of in-depth information was gathered. The following section will analyse crucial questions in an effort to understand the current effectiveness of advertising, and how the public expect the industry to behave.

135 responses

66.7% aged between 18 - 24

72.6% females

52.6% currently studying

Survey analysis

Opinions on advertising as an industry

Generally speaking, what is your opinion on all forms of advertising?

Before asking respondents specific questions in relation to advertising, a general open-ended question was asked to set the tone for the survey and provoke their thoughts. To begin with, majority of respondents were impartial towards advertising, with 77.8% neither hating nor loving advertising as a whole.

Some respondents elaborated on the multiple choice question with extended text responses. 5 respondents had provided a similar response, stating along the lines, how are you going to know what is out there if it's not advertised. Many respondents saw both sides of the advertising debate, recognising both positives and negatives. For example: advertising can make you aware of things you may otherwise be oblivious to. This could cause you to take interest which is a positive, however the aggression and repetitiveness of some ads can have an the opposite affect and put a negative spin on the product/ service being promoted. Others described advertising as a necessary evil, highlighting that it exists regardless of my opinion.

Indicating a potential desensitisation to advertisements, from face value, it seems that many consumers have accepted the widespread saturation of advertising both consciously and subconsciously. The arguably excessive amounts of advertising have evidently become an unavoidable "fact of life", and with so many responses indicating their lack of opinion on the topic, it (so far) can be assumed that society has become quite submissive to the nature of advertising.


Have you had a negative or positive experience with advertising?

To accurately gauge the attitude of the respondents, this question asked for their experiences with advertising in detail. To begin with, a simple multiple choice question asked whether they have had either a positive or negative experience with advertising; the results were somewhat inconclusive. Majority of respondents stated that they weren't sure. Their text responses however, provided greater insights, with both sides of the landscape being represented. There was a skew towards positive, with many explaining how advertising has helped them.

Negative experiences:
  • Far too many ads across all the digital mediums, and to some degree I feel like my privacy is being invaded with ones using my browsing data to target me.
  • False advertising lead to buying not great things
  • Most ads are annoying, repetive and loud! As well as false i.e. mcdonalds
  • Having to constantly see the same ad whenever the TV is turned on.
  • Ads that play on insecurities, are too graphic for kids or lure you into eating unhealthy
Positive experiences:
  • Being able to gather a very broad range of information on the same service provided by different companies
  • An ad for say a local event or a special at a business e.g. restaurant (ads that were not ads but more about information).
  • I was advertised a certain product that really interested me, so I decided to delve deeper and signed up. Not only did the ad for the product sell it in a positive light, it also pointed out the negatives which was interesting.
  • I found something I really like online and they were having this big sale I wasn't aware of.
  • There are some brands with great style, some adverts are semi artworks. Vogue covers, vintage car ads I love. There was a Dior video for umm miss Dior or something, it was like a dream, that kind I like.
  • Positive experience would be entertaining ads where there's puppies and dogs but that doesn't convince me to buy any of their products

Although many more responses were provided, they all carried a similar tone. Consumers dislike the confrontation of repetitive, irrelevant, and forceful ads. Many of the positive experiences stemmed from the provision of information. Based on the responses above, consumers expect advertisements not to directly sell, but to rather educate and provide awareness. It can be argued that providing truthful and nonbiased information is enough to start selling the product/services itself. Respondents were dissatisfied with adverts that included strong marketing tactics, which made it evident that the ad was less about the consumer's interests and more about the company's revenue.


Do you find ads helpful?

Elaborating on the information provided above, 64.4% of respondents found advertising helpful. Their paragraph responses reaffirmed the assumption made that consumers expect ads to be helpful, truthful, and nonbiased.

The following responses are excellent examples of this:

  • When an ad is truthful about a product, when they tell you where to find it or how to use it or when they make you think about things you haven't before
  • Ads often give initial guidance about something you may be interested in. This can then lead you to do more research about a particular brand or provider for that service.
  • I find ads helpful when they provide the correct information with some detail. I find too much detail just makes me lose interest.
  • Ads are helpful because they show us products and services that might interest us, and they also keep society informed on the latest trends so we don't feel out of the loop.
  • I think ads are helpful in getting a message across, or improving the attractiveness of a product. The population wouldn't know most of Australia's products without these advertisements.
  • With the aid of advertisements you can often find out about deals and sales that certain places have at that time.

There was however a resounding hatred towards ads and advertisers who created misleading ads that either: don't provide relevant information, mislead using deceptive tactics, or are just an annoyance. For example:

  • If I want something, I will research it! Ads don't always make me feel warm and fuzzy, and sometime they can turn me off a PRODUCT!!
  • Ads are not helpful when they overuse animation and other gimmicky stuff like that. A minigame for an ad is just plain annoying, partially animated banner ads draw attention away from the content that you are trying to view
  • they're not helpful when they are irrelevant and over the top (like the Joyce Main ads)
  • Not helpful when you consistently hear or see an advertisement, especially on radio when it's the same plug every ad break

So, is there a happy medium? Despite frequent dissatisfaction with certain ads, consumers do understand and appreciate the importance of advertising when it comes to discovering new brands, products, and sales. The respondents were more satisfied with ads that provided some (but not all) product information, was memorable, and not too disruptive. It's also worth noting that respondents want advertising that is more tailored to personal interests, eliminating the boredom and unhelpfulness associated with irrelevant ads. They have mentioned however, that ads shouldn't stereotype, and tailoring to personal interests doesn't necessarily mean categorising all users in a similar manner. (There is more on this topic later).


Are consumers over saturated with advertising?

Users were asked to specify whether or not they found the advertising industry to oversaturated with ads. As mentioned in the industry findings earlier, the amount of advertising (both digital and traditional) has grown exponentially in the past 40 years, with individuals being exposed to thousands of advertising-like content each day. The two multiple choice questions were simple, and are shown below. Unsurprisingly, 77% of respondents believe that the industry is oversaturated.

Opinions on traditional advertising

Do traditional ads catch your attention?

The purpose of this question was to determine whether or not traditional advertising mediums were still considered relevant or effective. With most advertising budgets favouring digital solutions, it was assumed that the effectiveness of traditional ads would be relatively low. Surprisingly, the results showed otherwise, with 63.7% of respondents stating that traditional ads are attention grabbing.

How they grab consumers' attention:
  • TV ads catch my eye with sound. I believe sound is important for TV ads.
  • I often find that TV ads catch my attention more. The producers are often very creative and make the ads memorable.
  • I like print ads because they can be really cool like concert ads and tv/radio ads have catchy jingles that you can joke with your mates.
  • With TV and Print, the ads are basically in your face, and are difficult to ignore. As of this moment, I can hear my neighbours TV which is showing the 15 wings for $10 from KFC, I'm contemplating buying it for lunch tomorrow.
  • Only a select few really draw my attention, usually ones that incorporate some form of humour and/or memorable concept.
  • Generally traditional advertisements are uncluttered, have a catchy jingle or slogan, have a brief description about the product/service, and show how the product/service performs. This catches my attention, as I can see exactly what is being promoted and the reason why I should consider buying it.
  • Yeah cause I still pay attention to my surrounding unlike most people. TV not so much but billboards etc catch my eye. Both billboards and radio are very catching when I'm usually stuck in traffic jams
  • Colours in print advertising can be really effective and I like art so sometimes they can be really nice to appreciate. TV ads catch my attention if there's a good message or funny storyline, but if I'm on my phone I'll miss them.

The ability to capture consumers attention can be heavily attributed to the creativity of the content. Innovative and unique uses of imagery and audio were more likely to strike a positive chord with the respondents, with a few stating that sound played an important role. In both TV and radio ads, campaigns with catchy jingles were more likely to be memorable. The effectiveness of traditional ads is also closely linked to the environment/surroundings it's experienced in. Respondents considered radio to be effective, as they are usually quite focused on the music, due to minimal distractions (other than driving). Similarly, billboards are able to capture people's attention when they are stuck in traffic jams, and provide a temporary visual stimulus.

Some respondents also vaguely explained what makes an ineffective traditional ad. In summary, they were not interested in ads that were played repeatedly - to the extent they became worn-out and annoying. A respondent also mentioned that poor acting was a contributing factor to unsuccessful ads. However, most respondents acknowledged that the content and quality of the ads wasn't the reason for their inability to grab their attention - it was more about the situation and mindframe they were in at the time of witnessing the ad. Many simply just don't have the time to dedicate to traditional mediums (such as reading newspapers and watching TV), and those that do, felt desensitised to the ads. In regards to TV ads, some respondents tended to switch channels to avoid the ads, others using their phones during ad breaks, and some simply leave the environment when a TV ad comes on.


Do you find traditional ads intrusive/annoying?

At an almost even split, only 54.8% of respondents find traditional ads annoying. A relatively low number considering the negative stigma the advertising industry has managed to build for itself. They were then asked to define what they believed an annoying ad to be comprised of. This question was multiple choice, however respondents did have the option of adding their own text responses. Most voted using the predefined responses. At the top of the list was seeing/hearing it too many times then followed by it's poorly designed. Based on the responses earlier, it's no doubt that these are what annoy audiences the most. If they expect ads to be entertaining, creative, and relevant, ads that don't meet these expectations or are shown too frequently, are likely to result in negative reactions.


If a traditional ad is annoying, are you less likely to engage with/purchase from the company advertising?

The response comes at no surprise, with 60% agreeing with this assumption. The reasoning is simple:

  • Some ads are just so bad that I wouldn't go somewhere that would do that to our ears
  • I can understand the company wanting to advertise things, but it can be really annoying to have them play the ad heaps of times, especially if the ad itself is not interesting. Yes, it can be a good thing as a reminder, but I've been in instances where they play it every 5 minutes and it just disrupts from the real reason I engage with the company.
  • I associate the annoying ad with the store/product and if I see the store in real life, I will walk past because I have the annoying ad associated with it.
  • I guess the dissatisfaction of hearing the same ad over and over again tarnishes your view of that advertiser. Its as if whenever you think of that company that horribly annoying ad springs to mind and ruins your mood.
  • There are certain companies in my region that have ads that tip me over the edge,hence,I have not walked through their doors for years.

Annoying ads, more often than not, build negative relationships with potential customers. If a consumer dislikes an ad from the beginning, repeatedly hearing/seeing it is only going to worsen the situation and potentially damage or sever a relationship. Some respondents did empathise with the advertiser, understanding that advertising is crucial to business operations and does have the potential to gain new customers.


Do you think that traditional advertising is interactive?
If traditional advertising was more interactive, do you think you would be more receptive to the advertising?
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72.6% of respondents believe traditional advertising is not interactive. At virtually an even split, only 50.4% of users agreed with the second statement. The other half disagreed. From these responses, it can be concluded that traditional advertising is effective due to its medium. Existing in an often passive way, consumers have the choice of whether or not they wish to interact with the advertisement. They aren't being forced to look at a billboard, listen to a certain radio station, or even pick up a magazine. A few respondents had indicated that the ability to skim magazines and newspapers, only looking at ads relevant to them made the experience enjoyable. Similarly, they have the option to change radio stations and switch TV channels if they found ads to be too irrelevant or annoying. With billboards usually passing quickly, consumers often only look at them if they are in a position to do so (such as being stuck in a traffic jam), and do not detract or obstruct the task at hand (driving).

Opinions on digital advertising (1) - a comparison to traditional mediums

Do digital ads catch your attention?

Scoring slightly better, 59.3% of respondents were more likely to notice digital ads, as compared to their traditional counterparts.

Here's why they do:
  • Don't have a choice in watching them sometimes
  • Because they take up more space then the content
  • Usually digital ads are eye grabbing which pulls the viewer in and most of the time you can't skip the ad until about 10 seconds in. If the add was interesting enough to me in the first 10 seconds usually I will actually watch the add all the way through without skipping.
  • If they're on Youtube I can't skip them so I end up watching some of them. Facebook ads and google search results are placed among the main scrollable text that I naturally have to look through so I stumble across it by accident.
  • Because it;s unavoidable. I have to sit through like five 15-30 second ads between songs on a YouTube playlist. Listening to Karlie Kloss talk about WIX does not make me want to "create" my own website; it does make me remember WIX though.
  • Usually digital ads are interactive which makes then more noticeable. They also tend to be unavoiable.

Unlike traditional ads, which engage audiences based on creative (and sometimes artistic) merit, humour and memorability, majority of respondents reported noticing digital ads due to their intrusiveness and inability to avoid. Most responses had negative tones, acknowledging that although they saw the ad, it usually was not warranted or welcome. Often disrupting the user's digital experience, they had to sit through unskippable video ads, or scroll past boring display ads.


Do you find digital ads intrusive/annoying?

It's by no surprise based on the above responses, that 77.8% of respondents considered digital ads annoying. This question was multiple choice, however respondents did have the option of adding their own text responses. Most voted using the predefined responses. The number one reason for consumers noticing digital ads also turned out to be the number one reason that they considered them to be annoying. 79.3% of respondents stated they were disruptive, and made it hard to complete the task they set out to do. Similar to traditional advertising was the concern of repetitiveness, with 70.4% of respondents identifying it as an issue. The unavoidability and lack of relevance were also of concern to many.

Looking at the data currently, the efforts of online advertisers to provide more relevant and organic content to consumers may not be enough to fix the damage left by the previous generation of online ads. Since the widespread introduction of video, many users have expressed their discontent with the new intrusive form of advertising, often preventing them from getting to the content they originally searched for. Although efforts to reinstate trust and confidence in online ads is well and truly underway, there is still a significant journey ahead to create effective digital ads.


If a digital ad is annoying, are you less likely to engage with/purchase from the company advertising?

Similar to traditional advertising, 57% of consumers are less likely to engage with companies with annoying ads. Most respondents stated that their reasoning was the same as the traditional ads question, however a few elaborated and provided additional viewpoints:

  • In this case it's harder to remove yourself from the ad, I get super mad at that and feel like the ad is intruding on my space, so by association I hate the brand.
  • If a company constantly plagues me with ads, I'll often find an alternative, such as different online streaming sites etc.
  • Because you don't want to see advertisements on private social media pages/accounts. Especially if it's spam mail advertising a product. HOW DO THEY EVEN GET MY EMAIL ADDRESS?
  • They are taking up page space to tell lies.
  • Seems malicious of them to do somethings eg. Cover important elements of page. So I don't trust them
  • Because advertisements need to engage their viewers not piss them off.

For those that found digital ads less annoying than traditional ads, they backed up their claims with the following statements:

  • you just close the webpage, scroll thru etc. whereas traditional you cant escape it - you will keep seeing and hearing that ad!
  • Digital ads, although they are still intrusive, are far less annoying than traditional ads, as most can be skipped or closed. Besides, it is easier to ignore a digital ad than a traditional one

Many respondents seemed to link the intrusiveness of digital ads with malicious intent and untrustworthy behaviour. Taking up space on pages, covering important content, or requiring them to sit through an ad that was not asked for, all potentially upsetting the user. Interestingly, no respondents mentioned the facilitators of such ads, and only criticised the advertisers themselves. Whether it be the lack of knowledge of internet technologies, or personal spite towards certain brands, the medium of digital advertising was always linked to the advertiser. It could be assumed that due to the high saturation of online ads, it's almost expected that every (or almost all) websites will contain digital advertising. No negative attitude was expressed towards companies like Google AdWords (responsible for ads on Google searches), and AdChoices (a display ad network). This places a large responsibility on advertisers to self-regulate and quality assure their own ads, ensuring they are responding to market demands accurately and not upsetting users. The ad networks responsible for publishing and hosting these ads arguably have little influence on the users' experience.

Opinions on digital advertising (2) - digging deeper

Do any of the following concerns affect your opinion on online advertising?

A multiple choice question, respondents were asked to check all that applied. At the top of their concerns was privacy, resonating with 71.1% of the respondents, followed closely by data usage at 65.2% and then page load time at 56.3%. Interestingly, the least of their concerns was safety, despite many associating digital ads with malicious and untrustworthy behaviour. This could potentially be attributed to the comfortableness many consumers have with using the internet, and the naivety they possess regarding internet technologies.


Do you use AdBlock or similar tools?

As mentioned in the research phase, the use of AdBlock has grown significantly and continues to do so. This was no exception to the respondents, with 60.7% having installed tools to block online ads. The main reason (at 69.6%) being due to their interruptive nature, followed by the fact that they're annoying at 56.3%.

The high use of AdBlock is an indicator that online advertisers are failing to resonate with consumers and build trust. Not only does the intrusiveness of digital ads cause users to be annoyed with the ads, it causes such discontent, many users resort to blocking the ads all together.


Do you like/appreciate ads on social media websites like Facebook and YouTube?

This question was asked to evaluate whether or not the new tactic of social media marketing was of any improvement to the original banner ads. 54.8% of respondents stated that they did not appreciate social media ads, 22/2% were unsure, and 19.3% did appreciate them. A very small minority also opted to pay for ad-free experiences to avoid the presence of ads. Unsurprisingly, the top reason for users disliking the ads was due to their intrusiveness, with 80.6% not appreciating how interruptive they were. 65% of users also stated that they don't appreciate the high volume of ads on social media, and 64.1% stated they don't use social media to be presented with ads.

These results prove that the discontent isn't with where the ads are placed, but rather how they are placed. Whether it's on a website, in a Facebook or Instagram feed, or before a YouTube video, user's don't appreciate high volumes of intrusive ads. The industry response to solving the AdBlock issue was to move to platforms where restricting ad delivery would be harder (such as Facebook on mobile phones). Whilst impressions and conversion rates for social media ads may be higher, user attitudes still remain the same. It would be a fair assumption to make, that users will eventually become even more aggravated with ads on social media as new advertisers adopt the services. A potentially infinite loop, digital advertising may be a series of moving to, and (metaphorically) destroying the platforms they exist on, constantly relying on new platforms to monetise. There is still a clear disconnect between advertisers and consumers, with a lack of understanding on behalf of the advertisers.


Do you think ads should be more personalised?
What are your thoughts on ads that use your browsing/location/email history to provide you with personalised ads?

Unique to digital advertising is the level of personalisation available. Using data such as search history, website visits, location tracking and more, advertisers are able to target highly specific categories of users. Most users are either unaware of the technology, or are aware but don't understand how it works. These two questions were asked to determine whether users felt comfortable with ads that utilise these technologies.

Only 54.1% of users believed that ads should be more personalised, most likely due to the issues raised earlier, these being:

  • Personalised ads often stereotype and group audiences into specific categories, which might not always be accurate.
  • Tailored ads often assume a user's interests based on their searches, which isn't always helpful. Many users search for things they are not necessarily interested in.
  • Users want choice, and personalised ads usually limit this.

The second question was multiple choice, but also allowed for text responses. Quite a few respondents opted to enter their own response. 50.4% of respondents believed that personalised advertising was bad, and that personal data shouldn't be used to tailor adverts. 28.9% believed personal advertising was good, as it delivers relevant information that they care about.

The following are some of the text responses:

  • I like hearing about products I might actually be interested in buying but I am uncomfortable in how the data is acquired
  • id like to choose what i give what company specifically.
  • They are good as it ensures that the information is tailored to my interests, but at the same time it worries me that my data is that easily accessible
  • I dont like the fact that my browsing information gets sold off to make these ads, I believe it serverly breaches my privacy and in order to use most apps and browsing

Based on their responses, the issue of obtaining personal data appears to be misunderstood by many consumers. Whilst some believe that personalised advertising is helpful, many believe it's a breach of privacy. The respondents seem to be unaware that their digital information isn't accessible to the companies advertising when using third party advertising platforms such as Google AdWords. Whilst the advertiser has the ability to target consumers based on their behaviour, the handling of this data is done purely by the advertising platform (Google, 2017). User privacy is arguably secure, however many respondents also weren't aware that many companies allow opt-out facilities, to prevent personalised advertising. Google and Microsoft products for example, have the options available in their settings (Agarwal, 2015), and many browsers are also equipped with "do not track" technology, which prevents advertising platforms from collecting and storing user behaviour data.


Do you think that digital advertising is interactive?
If digital advertising was more interactive, do you think you would be more receptive to the advertising?

No doubt due to the nature of digital ads, 67.4% of respondents considered the medium to be interactive. Only 41.5% agreed with the statement that it would be beneficial to increase the interactivity of digital ads. Drawing on responses from previous questions, the following arguments may provide insight as to why digital ads don't need to be any more interactive:

  • Ads are not helpful when they overuse animation and other gimmicky stuff like that. A minigame for an ad is just plain annoying
  • I get super mad at that and feel like the ad is intruding on my space
  • They're just annoying so I try and avoid them as much as possible

It's evident that many users go out of their way to avoid ads due to their annoying nature. Therefore, it's no surprise that they don't want ads that require greater effort to disable or dismiss, and would much prefer digital ads to be less interactive. Common amongst most respondents is the growing annoyance of intrusive digital ads. The online ad industry has built a reputation on providing annoying, unavoidable, and malicious content, with many users questioning their privacy and losing faith in advertisers, one respondent stated that: A lot of the time, you can't be sure if an ad is legitimate.


What would the ideal future look like in terms of advertising?

To finish the survey, respondents were asked to explain in detail what they want the advertising industry to look like. Many were willing to provide their insights. Here are their responses:

  • Optional ads would be amazing. If someone wants something generally speaking their going to do the research. Bombarding people with the same useless information day in day out is not effective. Perhaps minimilizing the frequency of ads and simply being selective with show/ air time would be better.
  • Well designed and unobtrusive advertising methods would suit me best. I'm not entirely against them but I don't like when they use my personal data/contact details to try and sell me their product, or when they hinder my actions to better grab my attention.
  • In an ideal future, there would be: no trying to sell a beauty product like it's liquid body confidence, no more trying to sell a car like it's an epic movie-length adventure, no re-enforcing generalisations or stereotypes. I get that companies need to make money, I just wish they'd be smart about it and make things people actually wanted to buy so the whole "tricking people into thinking our product is relevant" wasn't the first step to advertising.
  • I don't like seeing ads digitally, such as having to wait to watch a YouTube video but they are obviously useful or else they wouldn't be on there. In the ideal future I would like there to be more freedom of choice whether to have to see digital ads without having to pay for things to make it ad free.
  • In the ideal future, I believe companies should refrain from purchasing information, as too many spam emails are received that have no relevance whatsoever. Traditional forms of advertising are preferable to me, but currently there are too many on television. Companies need to find a balance, and reconsider their target audience and time slots. By doing so, advertisements can be tailored to specific people and actually grab someone's attention, rather than just being muted because they interrupted a movie. There needs to be a balance; companies need to consider advertisements from the consumer's perspective, rather than a profit perspective.
  • In the ideal future, advertisements should use my browsing history and interests to appeal to me. I enjoy advertisements in their current state to inform me of new deals on products I enjoy. Ads should be more focused on a digital platform than a traditional platform as our digital and social media interest will only increase. I do not listen to the radio, or read magazines often, so digital ads will appeal to me in the future.
  • Ideally in the future I see ads becoming more emotion based, to get the readers attention. It would be great if they could be tailored to personal interests, however I believe this would be hard because of privacy reasons. I don't particularly like ads in the social media instance, however I don't see this ceasing anytime soon.

Summary and final analysis

The survey has provided valuable insight into the current state of traditional and digital advertising. Receiving 135 genuine responses from young Australians provides an accurate representation of a growing portion of society. The information gathered can, and should, be used to shape the future of the marketing industry. It's evident that many consumers are dissatisfied with the current delivery of advertisements, especially via digital mediums. Although advertisers may be currently seeing positive growth with increasing online marketing spends, the rising trend has the potential to alter its course at any moment, with savvy consumers wanting more. This report outlined many areas which could benefit from a revaluation by advertisers:

  • Personalised online advertising is misunderstood, but here to stay. Whilst many consumers find advertisements helpful, a large majority of them do not understand how data mining works, and has resulted in a strong scepticism towards online ads. Although educating audiences on how targeting works is difficult and impractical, advertisers should take into consideration the evolving nature of modern consumers. They no longer want to be categorised into stereotypical "characters" based on their demographic. Increasing dissatisfaction with targeted ads due to stereotyping has led consumers to disregard and even dislike advertisers based on their marketing tactics. Consumers want variety, and don't mind being shown ads from what would typically be considered an unrelated demographic.
  • Consumers want information, not sales pitches. Emotive and often exaggerated language is a defining characteristic of marketing campaigns; however, most consumers have now become desensitised to the sensationalism due to the sheer volume. Sales pitches are important, and shouldn't be removed, however their delivery should be revised. Misleading statements, false promises and deceptive ambiguity is no longer considered acceptable. Sales pitches should include relevant, accurate and relatively unbiased information. Many respondents indicated that ads aren't the primary driver of their purchases, but they are a contributing factor. Ads should serve as reminders to consumers that certain products and services exist, and shouldn't always be a blatant call to action. If a consumer is interested, or is ready to buy, chances are that they'll consult the internet for further information.
  • Disruptive ads are not effective. Most respondents Unsurprisingly expressed strong dissatisfaction towards ads that disrupted their activities. With the negative stigma already attached to advertising, employing supposedly malicious advertising mediums such as popups, unskippable ads and minigames is only worsening the issue. Over saturation of ads and forced interaction will only encourage consumers to fight back. It's important to note that all respondents seemed to associate badly placed and presented ads with the advertisers, and not with the advertising platforms (such as Google AdWords). This places businesses at risk that utilise display ads and similar technologies. Many respondents indicated that they are less likely to interact with a business based on an annoying ad experience from them.
  • Traditional advertising isn't dying, but it isn't growing either. As indicated in the initial research, whilst online advertising spends are increasing, traditional advertising spends (such as those with TV) are set to remain the same for the near future. Advertisers shouldn't discount their effectiveness however. Although they may be more expensive to advertise with, require greater resources, and are difficult to monitor and adjust, the return on investment is justifiable. Traditional ads were often less likely to cause such strong negative reactions, as compared to their digital counterparts. Often less intrusive, avoidable (arguably), and less targeted, they have both their strong and weak points. Traditional advertising would be recommended for awareness-based marketing campaigns, and not so much for campaigns that expect customer action.
  • Advertisers need to favour quality over quantity. Respondents were more likely to engage with, and remember advertisements that were of high quality, and were more likely to ignore and dislike advertisers who employ a repetitive advertising strategy. Although repetition is an important marketing tactic, advertisers need to understand what is considered "too much", otherwise they will most likely jeopardise the effectiveness of their advertising campaign.

The future of advertising

The industry clearly has a long way to go, with advertisers still not connecting with consumers effectively. Based on the survey responses and market statistics, the future of advertising should:

Integrate, not intrude

Ads shouldn't disrupt a consumer or prevent them from carrying out a task they set out to do. There should be a continuous integration between traditional and digital ads, understanding the benefits of each platform for promotional purposes.

Educate, not deceive

Advertisers should aim to educate. providing accurate and relevant information to consumers, and not bombarding them with deceitful or ambiguous marketing techniques.

Favour quality, not quantity

Ads should be delivered in moderation, only appearing when relevant and necessary. Too many ads cause consumers to become frustrated and less receptive to companies' messages.

Stay tuned for assignment #2

Credits

This report was compiled by Jason Hill for a NM2420 assignment at James Cook University Townsville.

For details on how the survey was conducted, please see the methodology section of the report. All personally identifiable information provided by the respondents will remain confidential, and are currently stored online using Google Forms. No responsibility is taken for any data insecurities that may arise based on Google's cloud storage platforms.

All icons were obtained from The Noun Project under the CC BY 3.0 US Licence. Icons were created by a variety of artists, and have been modified from their original form.

Additional images used are screenshots of ads existing online.

All charts were created using the online tool, Infogram and are hosted externally. No responsibility is taken for any site functionality and security issues that may be a result of external scripts.

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