New York, NY – March 23, 2021 – “The In’s and Out’s of Ad Sentiment” – a new study released today by Mediahub and MAGNA– finds that a number of the most common advertising tactics are actually contributing to people’s increasingly negative perceptions of online advertising. The research reveals that people aren’t inherently opposed to online advertising, they just don’t love or trust the ads they are served. While the result is consumer apathy, the research offers solutions for how the industry can address the issue.

This study, conceived and undertaken by Mediahub in partnership with MAGNA, was conducted in the US and Australia in late 2020 and uncovered the factors that determine how people feel about online ads, which included ad load, targeting strategies – or lack thereof – and the content within the ads themselves. While the strongest driver of negative sentiment in the US was heavy ad load, many of the other drivers reveal the need to find an appropriate balance with tactics. For example, the ad industry has historically sought to engage customers with more and longer ads with “attention-grabbing design elements” like music, but the study found that in the case of online advertising, less is actually more.
Additional key findings of the study include:

  • Strike the right targeting balance: Ad targeting showed the most room for improvement. Many people are getting too many ads that are aggressively pushing them to buy and frustrated that these ads continue after they have already bought. Brands can remedy this with exclusion pixels. While lack of targeting leads to irrelevant ads, improper use leads to creepiness and annoyance.
  • Music is polarizing: Music can be a positive addition, but taste is subjective. In addition, many report feeling overwhelmed by the volume of music within ads.
  • Current events can be a double-edged sword: Ads addressing current events were a significant driver of overall ad sentiment, but people have mixed opinions. Many cited brands’ approach to COVID-19 and the feeling that too many brands jumped in, quickly leading to annoyance.

Encouragingly, MAGNA and Mediahub found that most factors contributing to the decline in ad sentiment are within advertisers’ control to address, with strong incentives to do so:

  • 71% of those surveyed said they have or considered disabling or not using ad blocking software as a result of having a positive opinion of online advertising.
  • What benefits people, benefits brands. Ad effectiveness testing revealed when many of these tactics are done well, brands get a bigger lift in KPIs.
  • Reducing the number of ads seen daily and improving ad targeting alone would improve overall ad sentiment by 34%.“As consumers spend more time with digital media, it’s crucial for the industry to understand what’s driving negative feelings toward online advertising so that we can do our part to improve it,” said Kara Manatt, SVP, Intelligence Solutions, MAGNA. “Bombarding people with ads is not working. It’s annoying and only encourages more ad avoidance. We need to focus on fewer, better ads that are thoughtfully targeted.”

What advertisers should do next:

  • Brands should focus more carefully on the consumers who are truly in the purchase consideration stage, giving them meaningful reasons to buy, rather than just frequent reminders.
  • Music should be used thoughtfully to ensure it aligns with audience interests, particularly for global advertisers.
  • When touching on current events within advertising, advertisers should be mindful of authenticity and timing.
  • Plan fewer, better ads. Ads in an uncluttered environment are worth a premium.

In conducting the research, a nationally representative audience of 1,354 Americans were interviewed online. In addition, controlled ad effectiveness testing was conducted to test 44 different ad types across 4,278 participants on YouTube.



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Part of the Interpublic network, the IPG Media Lab identifies and researches innovations and trends that will change the media landscape and how brands engage with their audiences. Since 2006, the Lab has worked with our clients and with industry partners who can help them best adapt to disruptive change. Its expertise, resources and consulting services also help to inform the learnings, strategies and business outcomes of all Interpublic agencies. For more information, please visit or follow @ipglab.

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