Brands are wasting budget on “annoying” ads that do more harm than good, new YouGov survey finds

Member Content

More than two-thirds of people (70 per cent) find digital advertising annoying and unpleasant, while 72 per cent say that bad advertising experiences have negatively affected their perception of a brand, according to new research that lays bare the real damage caused by excessive and intrusive ads.

The survey, from user-first media platform Picnic, in partnership with global public opinion company YouGov, shines a light on attitudes towards user experience of advertising on the ad-funded web, and reveals that poor advertising experiences not only achieve diminishing returns, but actively turn consumers off infringing brands.

71 per cent of people agree that annoying or intrusive ad experiences make them less likely to purchase from that brand in future, while 86 per cent say that too many ads on a webpage make them feel overwhelmed and more likely to ignore the advertising altogether. Survey respondents identified “too many ads” as the number one most annoying UX issue, followed by blocked screen content, accidental clicks, slow load speeds, and unstable page content, in that order.

For users who chose to comment on ad experience issues, there was a resoundingly negative attitude towards digital ads in their current form, with all answers expressing negative sentiment. Comments included “all advertising is annoying” and “[ads are] annoying full stop”. Some users also confirmed they use ad blockers to avoid UX issues.

Hope for the ad-funded web
Despite these negative attitudes, respondents are still fundamentally in favour of an ad-funded web. The majority of respondents (56 per cent) agree that they enjoy reading free content from reputable publishers, and over a third of people (39 per cent) say they like discovering new products and brands on the open web. Importantly, 71 per cent of participants also said they’d be more likely to feel positively towards ads if they were fast-loading, and didn’t force clicks or block content.

Commenting on the survey, Matthew Goldhill, Founder & CEO, Picnic, said: “If brands and media planners can shift their approach towards prioritising ad solutions that resolve user experience issues on the web, we as an industry can drastically reduce the amount of ineffective, wasted and even damaging ad spend. This would not only be better for the environment, but would also help to drive more meaningful engagement and returns for brands.”

Sean Golding, Digital Development Director at AKA UK, agreed, saying: “Minimising wasted ad spend is a top priority in terms of efficiency and brand safety. To prevent waste and increase engagement, we need to find ad solutions that deliver a positive user experience on trusted, high-quality publishers. “It’s a win-win for all. Advertisers will see improved campaign performance, and publishers will benefit from delivering ads that do not ruin their on-page content – keeping their readers engaged and coming back for more.”

Key highlights from the survey:

  • 70 per cent of people find digital ads annoying and unpleasant
  • 72 per cent agree that annoying or intrusive ad experiences have negatively affected their perception of a brand
  • 66 per cent say annoying or intrusive ad experiences reduce their trust in the brand advertising
  • 71 per cent agree that annoying or intrusive ad experiences make them less likely to purchase from that brand in future
  • 86 per cent of people agree that too many ads on a webpage makes them feel overwhelmed and more likely to ignore the adverts
  • 71 per cent of people agree they’d have a more positive perspective of digital ads if they loaded quickly and didn’t force clicks or block content.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 2,006 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13th – 16th October 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).