Ads are everywhere — on busy highways, in fitting rooms, and on social media feeds. Encountering advertisements is inevitable, but how frequently do people view ads that are relevant, informative, and engaging enough to influence a new purchase?

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The DISQO Ad Relevance Survey uncovered insights into consumer sentiment and preferences related to the ads they see. The survey was conducted in October 2019 and reached 966 DISQO audience members. It uncovered the proportion of consumers who care to see relevant ads and whether the ads they currently see are relevant to their interests and needs. Respondents also indicated the elements that make an ad relevant versus irrelevant and their feelings when viewing these types of ads.

The study covered the following topics:

  • Consumer interest in viewing relevant ads
  • The relevance of typical ads seen
  • Factors that determine ad relevance
  • Consumer sentiment in relation to ads
  • Interest in Viewing Relevant Ads

Understanding that advertising is inevitable, it comes as no surprise that a majority of people (82%) want to see ads that are relevant to them. While this should serve as a reminder to advertisers to keep in mind the targeting of their messages, the fact that 14% of people are ambivalent about ad relevance may also be a call for more enjoyable ad experiences.
Perceived Relevance of Ads

Understanding that people do indeed want to see relevant advertising, how well is the industry faring at delivering the right
message to the right person? In short, the study revealed that advertisers are performing fare, at best. While a slight majority (53%) claim they tend to see relevant ads, 30% were neutral.

To explore this topic further, we also asked people to quantify approximately how many relevant ads they see compared to all advertisements they are exposed to. As a reminder to the advertising industry that there is ample room for improvement, only 6% of people report that all of the ads they see are relevant, and 40% of people find a majority of ads to be irrelevant. That said, a majority (60%) reported that at least half of all the ads they see are relevant, suggesting a cause for optimism, provided advertising continues to be relevant to consumer wants and needs.

To dive deeper, the study explored whether people feel that ads they had been recently exposed to were relevant to their interests or needs. Interestingly — and unfortunately for advertisers — respondents reported that their recent ad views were less relevant than the norm. This discrepancy was more pronounced with regard to consumer needs, wherein only 43% found that the ads they’ve seen recently were relevant, and 23% felt the ads had been irrelevant.

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Elements of A Relevant Ad

To better understand why only half of the people find a typical ad to be relevant, we must unpack what constitutes relevant advertising from the perspective of the consumer. Then asked to share their thoughts via an open-ended response, many (46%) described relevant advertising as that which is interesting. Beyond this, people most commonly described relevant advertising as ads that appeal to their needs (22%) or wants (15%), offer something usable (14%), or something they could identify with (10%).

On the flip side, what factors into an irrelevant ad? Unsurprisingly, if the content isn’t of interest (33%), people would categorize the ad as irrelevant. Other factors include ads that aren’t relatable (15%), products that aren’t needed (14%) or useful (9%), and otherwise annoying ads (7%).

Impact on Audience Sentiment

So, why do these perceptions matter? Consumer attitudes can greatly shape their behavior. An advertisement that is irrelevant is less likely to evoke the desired response to the brand, whereas an ad that is interesting and useful is more likely to elicit a marketer’s intended outcome. Indeed, 81% reported feeling happy when seeing a relevant ad. Likewise, 57% reported feeling unhappy when seeing irrelevant ads. On an interesting note, people are more likely to feel indifferent when seeing an irrelevant ad (35%) over a relevant one (16%), suggesting that irrelevance may result in reduced attention.

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Takeaways

While it’s of utmost importance for brands to deliver relevant messaging to their audiences, what constitutes relevance varies by person. While appealing to consumer needs is the safest option, it would behoove advertisers to understand whether their ads are driving both the desired emotional and behavioral responses. After all, not only do people prefer to see ads that can satisfy a need, but they also feel — and respond — better when ads are more relatable.