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Consumer Attitudes Toward Digital Advertising 2021

Reaching the Concerned and Ad-Avoidant User

About This Report
Consumers are frustrated by intrusive or invasive ad experiences, and they’re concerned about how advertisers use their data. Here’s how consumers perceive their ad experiences across media channels, how they avoid ads, and how brands, advertisers, and publishers are responding.
Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Most consumers now proactively avoid advertising, whether by using ad blockers, paying for ad-free digital media experiences, or skipping ads. But even with incentives to view ads or share data, such as free content or rewards, many still aren’t comfortable with how companies use their data to target them with ads.

When are consumers more tolerant of advertising?

As publishers shift to subscription models, consumers are opting to pay to receive digital content without ads or with reduced ad loads. But in most media channels, consumers are more likely to accept ads when they don’t have to pay to subscribe or can pay less for a subscription. Consumers are also more receptive to lighter, less intrusive ad experiences and incentivized ads that give them more control, such as rewarded video ads.

Why do internet users block ads?

Internet users mainly use ad blockers to avoid intrusive, interruptive, or repetitive ads and get faster page speeds, as high ad loads can affect page loading times. But data privacy concerns also drive some people to use ad blockers to prevent tracking.

How do consumers feel about marketers’ use of their data?

Consumers aren’t comfortable with how companies collect and use their personal data for advertising. Tracking consent prompts on websites and apps on iOS likely aren’t helping. Some consumers are open to sharing their data in exchange for certain benefits or rewards, but some ad experiences that rely on that data still feel invasive.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report examines consumer views toward advertising across media channels, ad avoidance behaviors including ad blocker use, and attitudes toward personal data use in digital advertising.

KEY STAT: About half of adult US internet users said that when brands use their data in advertising, it helps them discover (50%) and find (49%) products and services that interest them—but 44% said this often feels invasive, per a March 2021 Merkle survey.

Here’s what’s in the full report


Exportable files for easy reading, analysis and sharing.


Reliable data in simple displays for presentations and quick decision making.

16expert perspectives

Insights from industry and company leaders.

    Table of Contents

    1. Executive Summary
    2. Consumer Ad Preferences by Channel
    3. Ad Avoidance
    1. Personal Data and Privacy
    2. Key Takeaways
    3. Insider Intelligence Interviews
    1. Read Next
    2. Sources
    3. Media Gallery

    Charts in This Report

    Interviewed for This Report

    Paul Bannister
    Chief Strategy Officer
    Interviewed June 11, 2021
    Phil Bohn
    Senior Vice President, Sales and Revenue
    Interviewed June 15, 2021
    Sophie Daranyi
    Omnicom Commerce Group
    Interviewed June 24, 2021
    Kurt Donnell
    President and CEO
    Interviewed June 14, 2021
    Jean-Paul Edwards
    Chief Product Development Officer
    Interviewed June 24, 2021
    Jully Hong
    Vice President and Group Director, Media Technology
    Interviewed June 24, 2021
    Jason Kint
    Digital Content Next
    Interviewed June 15, 2021
    Marty Krátký-Katz
    Co-Founder and CEO
    Interviewed June 11, 2021
    Ed McElvain
    Mediahub Worldwide
    Executive Vice President and Director, P3
    Interviewed July 9, 2021
    Scott Messer
    Leaf Group
    Senior Vice President, Media
    Interviewed June 17, 2021
    Tom Morningstar
    Mediahub Worldwide
    Vice President and Director, US Programmatic
    Interviewed June 24, 2021
    Ashish Patel
    Group Nine Media
    Chief Insights Officer
    Interviewed June 21, 2021
    Durrah Taqiah
    Content Marketer and Copywriter
    Interviewed June 28, 2021
    Neal Thurman
    Coalition for Better Ads
    Interviewed June 16, 2021
    Ben Williams
    Director, Advocacy
    Interviewed June 28, 2021
    Ingmar Zach
    Senior Vice President, Product
    Interviewed June 24, 2021


    Audrey Schomer


    Ross Benes
    Senior Analyst
    Nicole Perrin
    Principal Analyst
    Tracy Tang
    Senior Researcher
    Sara M. Watson
    Senior Analyst
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