Online ads that damage brands

Internet ads, especially pop-ups, are driving Web users away. To avoid negative results, marketers must engage with consumers and produce highly targeted campaigns that maintain brand integrity

Play%20OnlineIntrusive, off-putting and annoying are just some of the words we use when talking about… no, not media-owner representatives, but online advertising. Before revealing the official statistics from the research by, consider how many readers of this article will be nodding in agreement when we recount visiting a website to look for some information, only to be stopped dead in our tracks having come up against the pop-up.

Does the creative team in digital think that by putting the “close” in an “unusual” place we’re not going to look for it and will read the ad instead? Surely not? In fact, we hunt for the close, cursing as we do, and then get out of the space as quickly as possible. Is this being a bit too dramatic and jumping to conclusions because of personal views, or is it fact? The answer is fact. Not only are the ads seen as intrusive, but they are also having a negative impact on brand perception and, potentially, a negative impact on the bottom line.

So let us now examine the research and try to establish why this is potentially a problem waiting to happen, if not already upon us and those within the online industry.

From as low as 20p per thousand page impressions, we can see why media buyers are rushing in and buying run-of-site. But, as has been well documented, this can also be a risky route. Let us not forget the Panorama exposures of a few weeks ago. Has anyone stopped to question why it is so “cheap” or such great value for money? Can we imagine if the cost of a full page in the national red-tops were only £500? Surely we’d all start questioning why it’s come back so aggressively – is it that it’s not delivering the impact?

The findings of the research shows the problem is rife, with the majority of people experiencing advertising that is badly pitched and intrusive. It reveals that 94% of users say they have experienced ads online that are totally unrelated to the site they are visiting. Furthermore, 95% of consumers say they have had ads served on them that are not relevant to them or their interests. More specifically, 94% of people experience pop-up ads online that are of no interest to them.

The research highlights to media owners the importance of a focused and cohesive strategy when courting the alleged, not-so-elusive online spend. Understanding consumers’ demands and preferences should be a basic element, yet the research disputes this. Half of respondents (50%) say they have left a favourite website because of intrusive/annoying online ads and pop-ups. Although a third (33%) say they would not leave a favourite site because of annoying ads, there is a longer-term concern, as those respondents say they would be less inclined to revisit that site as a result. Common to nearly all respondents (92%) is the negative experience of struggling to close those pop-ups that frustratingly conceal the content they originally went to view. The overwhelming warning has to be that intrusive content has a direct impact on viewing figures, page impressions and could consequently account for the fall in run-of-site pricing.

The most important discovery of the research, however, is that this type of advertising, where ads are involuntarily served on the viewer through pop-ups, moving screens, or non-existent segmentation through run-of-site purchasing irrelevant to content, does have a negative impact on brand. An alarming 95.2% say annoying and intrusive ads make them less likely to buy the brand. Most significantly, 95% of people say this type of online advertising makes them think unfavourably about a brand.

The respondents also identify brands they now perceive negatively due to their online advertising strategies. The worst offenders cited, in no particular order, are: L’Oréal, Dell, Capital One, Talk Talk, Vauxhall and Volvo.

In the past ten years, ad effectiveness in traditional media has fallen by 40% due to saturation, with ad avoidance rising to record levels. Online is recognised as having the potential to yield highly-targeted results. The significant segmentation that can be achieved equates to less waste for brand, coupled with the ability to yield a strong return on investment by driving direct sales. It would be a travesty if ad effectiveness online goes the same way as it has done in traditional media. Ultimately, content is king in an online environment and the marketing industry needs to change the way it approaches online activity.

The escalating avalanche of new media, including user-generated content and converging technologies, with their exponential rate of growth, present constant opportunities to add value and enhance existing and new media techniques to marketing campaigns. Marketers need to find a way to engage with users, to their benefit, as opposed to taking a counter-productive shotgun approach by serving ads upon them.

Segmentation, age, agenda and authenticity provide very real challenges for today’s marketing industry. Maintaining editorial integrity and personal relevance to the end user through the content you deliver is the most important aspect of communicating in any environment – but it is paramount in this new media world. 

Howard Kosky, co -founder of, contributed to this week’s Digital Insight





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