April 18, 2017

Advertising Chart: Consumers’ preferred advertising channels


Whether you’re engaged in online advertising, traditional advertising or a mixture of the two, channel selection is integral to a successful campaign.

To help determine what customers want (and where they want it) from brands, we conducted research with 2,400 consumers. This week, we share their preferred advertising channels.

(As seen in the MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week newsletter. Click to get the latest research and case studies from MarketingSherpa.),

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

In 2016, we surveyed 2,400 consumers — sampled to reflect a close match to the U.S. population's demographics — about business and marketing topics. Half of the respondents (1,200) were asked to reflect on their experiences with companies they were satisfied with, and the other half of respondents (1,200) were questioned about companies with which they are not satisfied.

Customer satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) did not provide a significant difference to overall ad type preference, so we grouped the numbers together in the chart for you for simplicity’s sake.

Which type of ads do you prefer to receive from companies with which you are [satisfied or unsatisfied]? Rank the following ad types from most liked (1) to least liked (13).

To see 28 charts from the study, download the free report.

TV and print ads most preferred by consumers

Television ads and print advertising were the two most preferred channels for customers.

TV commercials had an average ranking of 4.4 for satisfied customers and 4.84 for unsatisfied customers, while ads in newspapers and magazines received an average ranking of 5.29 for satisfied customers and 5.59 for unsatisfied customers.

TV advertising may have been the most preferred channel because it’s the most familiar channel. As one customer put it, “Online videos are good if short. Like the TV and radio ads because I am used to them.”

Unlike emerging platforms, this familiarity means there is less anxiety about the channel itself. A consumer respondent described that anxiety stating, “I don't like pop-ups. I generally prefer print, radio, TV ads due to threat of viruses and being hacked through electronics.” Elsewhere in the survey we found that TV ads were the second-most trusted advertising channel when consumers were considering making a purchase (second only to print ads).

This lack of familiarity may have hurt ads in podcasts, which are still relatively new. While these ads were the least preferred, they were not without their supporters. For example, “The best ads are those which seem to fit in naturally. I much prefer ads on podcasts, for instance, because podcasters often use advertisements for both products they like and products that relate to their own content.”

Consumers’ tips for improving your TV ads

While TV ads were the most preferred channel overall, there is always room for optimization. Consumers had complaints about:

  • Frequency of ads

“I would like the marketing of companies to stop invading every aspect of my life. I would like to avoid some advertising when using the internet or watching TV. I'm okay with some advertising sometimes, but there are times when they become annoying seeing the same thing over and over.”

“When a TV ad comes on it's best to not overplay it.”

  • Volume (as in sound level)

“Do not make TV or radio ads which yell at me.”

“Stop being so pushy and lower the noise on TV ads.”

  • The content of the ads themselves

“… I also find a lot of ads too serious, unless they are about medication, or other very serious matters, companies should integrate more humor into their ads. But online pop ups and video ads are just screaming to be disliked. Funny TV, radio, billboard ads are the way to go in my opinion.”

“I absolutely adore searching for and watching commercials from the 1950s to the mid-1990s, so I think companies should focus on the fact that there are actually so many people like me into nostalgia and vintage television and commercials. They should make their TV and print ads these days just like they used to make them during the golden age of TV, and they will be amazed by how many people start actually paying attention to commercials again.”

“Most TV commercials are obnoxious, and I will actually go out of my way not to buy a product with TV ads I don't like. By making TV advertising the way they do today, I think they are defeating their purpose.  If TV advertising works, people must be awfully stupid.”

  • Ad length

“Shorter ads. People don't like 30-second ads in groups of 4 to 6. TV is the worst. I DVR everything I watch now and skip ads. Saves hours every week.”

Even the most popular channel isn’t universally loved

While TV is the most preferred channel overall, this data represents the opinion of all U.S. consumers. Individual preferences, especially among niche groups, may vary. You can use this overall data to help you form hypotheses, but, ultimately, you should determine what works best for your unique audience.

After all, TV ads weren’t without their detractors. Commercials were ranked 10th or lower by 13% of respondents.

For one thing, TV is certainly past its golden age and increasingly gets challenged by emerging channels, as noted by this consumer, “Maybe do a little more internet ads, because I spend more time on the internet than I do watching television.”

And, in general, TV ads create a disruptive consumer experience. “I hate any kind of marketing that goes on in the TV, YouTube, etc. because it interferes with program/movie I'm watching or music that I'm listening to. Years ago when we only had prime time TV, we had to tolerate interrupting advertisements which (we were told) paid for programming. Now that we all pay for all prime time and additional channels (other than HBO, etc.) — what is the reason for annoying 10 minutes [of] repeated advertisements, I wonder?”

Related resources

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