90% of Users Find Targeted Ads Annoying: Research Points to One Solution

Jul 04, 2019

Luke Geoghegan

We’re all exposed to a lot of advertising today.

Experts suggest the average person sees 4,000 – 10,000 ads per day

And with mobile usage continually on the rise, our phones account for an ever-increasing slice of that total.

No wonder we as marketers will spend $165bn on mobile ads this year alone.

But how do consumers feel about the mobile marketing and advertising in which we invest so much budget for them to see? 

How relevant is it to them? How does it impact their opinions of our companies? And what value do they take from it?

A few weeks ago, around the anniversary of GDPR, we released some findings from The Reality Report 2019 – our study of 287,000 mobile users – revealing the eye-opening opinions of consumers towards privacy and data since GDPR.

But that’s only half the story. 

The second part of the report focuses on marketing and advertising, and results show… it’s time for a major change. 

90% of users find mobile marketing annoying

The long-held promise of mobile marketing is to leave behind the spray-and-pray tactics of the past and deliver ads and messages aligned to what consumers really want. 

But it’s not quite playing out that way…

90% of consumers still describe targeted ads as ‘annoying’. 

That means after $165bn has been spent on targeted mobile ads in 2019, nine out of ten users will be left irritated after seeing them.

That’s a lot of misplaced budget. In anyone’s book, is pretty unacceptable. 

As marketers we don’t want to irritate users, any more than we want to waste precious budget. 

So what’s going on here? 

Mobile marketing is dominated by few, but aggravating many

After decades of innovation, there are a mind-boggling amount of marketing technology companies in existence. Still, the vast majority of all mobile ads are served by the walled gardens. 

It’s no secret these tech giants have access to an incomparable mass of user data, and a very comprehensive understanding of consumer behavior on mobile. 

Their business models rely on ad spend, and their targeting capabilities are advanced. So providing relevant and valuable marketing messages should be attainable. Right? 

Not according to consumers. Only 1 in 10 deem mobile ads to be ‘useful’, and a combined 84% feel that the amount of irrelevant marketing messages they’re exposed to on mobile is getting worse, or not improving.

Clearly, more data + more technology, alone, does not equate to user value.

More data is not the answer. So what is?

Now more than ever, consumers are aware of the value that their data holds for marketers. 

This awareness is inextricably linked to high profile public scandals and deceitful data handling practices. Memories loom like murky shadows in the minds of mobile users. They know big companies have used data to target them with ads, without permission.

The irony? Our report shows that 71% of consumers are actually willing to share their data – in return for access to free content – as long as they are able to make an informed choice.

And therein lies the missing element.

It’s not about more data. It’s not about more technology. It’s about choice.

Unless users are given an explicit choice – to share data or not, to receive ads or not – there will always be an underlying resentment towards the ads they are shown. Because no matter how ‘relevant’, they act as a constant reminder that their data is being used to make money, without their permission. 

It’s not just a problem for brands; consumers blame the messenger too. 52% said that annoying ads give them ‘a poor opinion’ of the site or app that hosts them.

We as an industry, need to take note. 

The future belongs to permission and user choice

The Reality Report proves that it is time for a profound and global transformation. It’s time to rethink how mobile marketing is done. It’s time for the industry to move from ‘data-driven’ to ‘choice-first’.

If the industry focuses on asking permission from consumers, not only will this result in more compliant data for marketers, but it also shifts the advertiser-to-consumer relationship dynamic. It becomes one of mutual understanding and trust.

Organizations who put consumer choice and data privacy at the center of their digital marketing execution will outperform their peers in the long run.

287,000 mobile users have shared their feelings. Now it’s on us to show that we’re listening.

The Reality Report: Consumer Attitudes Towards Mobile Marketing 2019 is your comprehensive guide. It’s available for free download from Tuesday, July 9th. 

Leave your details with us and we’ll make sure you’ll be amongst the first to read it.

Max Pepe, VP Marketing