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40% of Brits dislike all types of online ads, finds Ofcom media usage report


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

April 25, 2018 | 6 min read

It may surprise few to learn that 40% of Brits dislike all forms of online advertising, regardless of whether they are targeted or not.

Online ads

40% of Brits dislike all online ads / Grace Madeline

While brands talk of a so-called paradigm shift away from adverts and towards content, the UK public has become increasingly mobilised in its opposition to ads, at least according to data from Ofcom's extensive Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes Report’.

The report broadly covered issues facing internet use and media consumption in 2017. The main takeaways for advertisers was that that 40% of Brits dislike ads, a quarter are unaware they receive a personalised ad experience and a tenth of experience web users listed advertising as their main online concern.

The Drum delved deeper into the figures below.

Personal data and targeted ads

23% of respondents do not mind seeing online ads, 35% caveated that with ads they are interested in. 40% claimed they dislike all online ads. Dislike of online ads grew consistently and dramatically the older the respondent was.

The research polled the public to see if they understand how they are being tracked and monetised online. When asked an open question, they were required to list ways their information is harvested on the web.

71% of all respondents were aware that cookies track their website visits and interests. 61% knew that their social media likes, interests and location was being used to build an advertising profile. 60% understood the implications of opting in to receiving information from services they have registered with. 53% realised the implications of giving third parties access to this registration data.

Only 48% knew the implications of having location activated on their smartphone, that apps were tracking their location for marketing and service purposes.

Much of the above data is used to deliver personalised ads to an individual. Only 58% of web users knew that they receive different ads to other people. They were unaware they receive a web experience completely unique to them. A quarter thought everyone was served the same ads showing the industry has work in communicating that consumers are (or should be) in control of their experience.

The study also learned how web users are avoid ads. 32% don’t tick boxes that allow companies to newsletter and contact them. 31% have adopted adblocking software or features. 9% gave out false information to services to ensure they avoid spam and a further 9% claimed they only visit ad-free sites (the BBC was the cited example).

The big concerns of web users

While offensive and illegal content, material that poses a risk of harm to others, and threats to security were the most worried about issues for established and new web users, personal privacy and advertising did crop up too.

4% of new web users were concerned about their personal privacy, 2% worried about advertising. Established users, clearly more savvy than new adopters were more concerned about both sectors. 12% worried about privacy and 11%, more than one in ten, were concerned about advertising.

Where news is consumed

TV has remained the first port of call for news. The platform has been leveraged for being impartial (66%), up-to-date (62%) and providing key facts (59%). Less are after deep coverage (39%) and, echoing Michael Gove's Brits are "fed up with experts" – only a third seek it for an expert opinion (32%). Even less pursue an alternative viewpoint (22%) in TV news.

That is where social media comes in. Slightly more said they go to the social media platforms to meet (and clash with) opposing views (25%). Users have admitted they are less likely to see views they disagree with on these platforms against 2016 figures (20% vs 29%).

YouTube is also becoming a more important source of news according to respondents. Three-quarters (74%) say they would use YouTube for education purposes, higher than the proportion of those who claim to use Google for this purpose (69%).

Search engines

More than half of internet users (59%) knew that search engine results could contain biased or incorrect information but 18% trusted the information, thinking it had been personally scrutinized by the service.

These biases give a good idea how people can be duped by false sources.

58% of users were aware of Google’s paid-for search results but 23% believed it was the best or most relevant results that are being placed at the top of the page, a belief that is no doubt driving ROI in search.

Brand safety

Although the web seems to be the first port of call for anyone to claim they have been offended, attitudes on protecting web users from inappropriate or offensive material hasn’t undergone a material change in the last decade.

55% agree that web users should be protected from illicit material, this sat at 57% in 2007 with some minor fluctuations in between. It begs the question why brands are just now waking up to the brand safety issue, worrying about the content their ads are appearing next to.

9% said they are often offended, a quarter said they are sometimes offended, and 23% said they are rarely offended. 41% claimed it simply never happens.

But, when offense is incurred, the research documented how the public reacted.

The most common response is to report or block the content (30%); 27% report or block the person or brand responsible for the material, 10% respond privately to the responsible party. 5% said they’ve lest a website because of some of the content propagated here. The clincher is that 45% of users have never taken any of these measures.

You can read the full report here. It spans 216 pages so there are many aspects of online life to delve into.


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