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Which Types of Ads Annoy Consumers Most?

Consumers’ reasons for blocking ads point sharply in the direction of user experience. While it’s clear that internet users are unhappy with ad loads overall, there are also some types of ads they like more—or less. The ones that provoke the most ire get in the way of consumers’ ability to view the content they have sought out.

Arguably, the most important research into consumer attitudes toward specific types of advertising is a few years old—published in 2017 by the Coalition for Better Ads as part of an effort to develop the Better Ads Standard that Google's Chrome would ultimately adopt.

That research found that desktop users least preferred pop-up ads, autoplay videos with sound, prestitial ads with a countdown and large sticky ads. On mobile, users least preferred pop-ups, prestitials, pages with more than 30% ad density, flashing animation, poststitial ads with a countdown, full-screen scrollover ads, large sticky ads and autoplay videos with sound. These types of ads do not meet the Better Ads Standard, and pages with these types of ads risk Chrome blocking all their ads.

"Chrome is the world's leading web browser, so these standards are effectively the baseline for what types of ad experiences publishers can offer," said Nicole Perrin, eMarketer principal analyst. "But they do still allow for some interruptive formats as well as slow page load times."

More recently, we commissioned customer experience analytics firm Bizrate Insights to survey its panel of US digital buyers about their ad avoidance habits and the types of ads they found useful or annoying.

Here, we should note that the panel is not representative of all US internet users; more than half of respondents said they used an ad blocker as of the July 2019 survey, and respondents also skewed older, female and affluent. Still, there’s no reason not to think this group’s opinion of specific ad types isn’t representative of groups that are relatively likely to block ads.

The survey found that about two-thirds of US digital buyers thought autoplay video ads with sound were annoying, making them the most annoying type of online ad. Autoplay videos without sound, which irked 55.0% of respondents, was No. 2. Perhaps surprisingly, the third-leading response was audio ads on music streaming services or podcasts. Almost half of respondents said they found them annoying.

Respondents who used an ad blocker were more likely to find all the ad types we asked about annoying than respondents who didn’t use an ad blocker at all.

"It's not surprising to see another piece of confirmation that consumers don't like autoplay video," Perrin said. "They tend to prefer less intrusive formats and contextually appropriate creative. Most also know they need ad support in order to enjoy the media they want, but want advertisers and publishers to be respectful of their attention."

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