Skip to main content

Memorable vs. annoying: How consumers experience ads on digital platforms

Making ads entertaining, relevant and sensitive to different digital experiences can yield better value

Consumer sentiment toward ads across digital delivery channels varies—from memorable to annoying—with clear generational nuances. What does it mean for content providers, platforms and advertisers?

For US consumers, advertisements are seemingly everywhere.1 Many of the entertainment services consumers use are funded (at least in part) by ads, which makes them more affordable. That’s one of the reasons why ad-supported streaming models—which allow consumers the flexibility to scale up and down their entertainment costs and help services retain customers through cost-effective tiers—continue to grow in popularity among consumers.2 In fact, Deloitte’s Digital media trends, 15th edition survey found that more than half of the US consumers use ad-supported streaming music and video platforms.3 The study also found that more than four in five consumers use social media services, which also rely heavily on advertising.4

However, consumers aren’t equally influenced by all ads. They find ads on some of these services less memorable and more annoying than others. But what if they were more appealing? Could that unlock higher consumer engagement and retention?

In our survey, we asked consumers to rate the ads they experience on media of all types—pay TV, streaming services, social media, search engines, radio, streaming music and more—and to indicate which ads they found most annoying and which they found most memorable. A negative score means consumers find the ads more annoying (than memorable), whereas a positive score means the ads are considered more memorable (than annoying).

Our data found that consumers have a range of sentiments toward ads (see figure), depending on where they experience the ads.5 Those that pop up while streaming music or video content and while playing, or watching, video games score lower on the scale. This could be because they often disrupt the streaming or gaming experience for the user and they may also lack personalisation. Conversely, ads on social media platforms have a higher net positive score among consumers. These ads are less disruptive to the user experience and are often precisely tailored and targeted to an individual’s preferences.6

There are clear generational nuances in sentiments toward ads on digital platforms. Generation Zs (Gen Zs) favour music and gaming over other entertainment activities,7 but they consider ads on these platforms to be more annoying than memorable. However, younger generations don’t find all ads annoying: Gen Zs and millennials consider ads on social media platforms and ads from social media influencers to be more memorable, suggesting a preference for ads that are personalised and seamlessly integrated into their media experiences.

These elements of personalisation and integration—which are central to targeted ads on social media8—may be a way to increase ad recall for all consumers across digital experiences. For instance, six in 10 consumers say they’d be more satisfied with their viewing experience if the ads were more targeted and relevant to them.9

Along with personalisation and ad integration, some consumers also value having greater control over their ad consumption, with 63% of consumers agreeing that they would like the option to select the ads they see when streaming video content.10 Two aspects of this desire for control may be repetition and contextualisation. For instance, eight in 10 consumers say there is too much ad repetition and nearly six in 10 agree that ads during TV shows and movies would be more effective if they were related to the content.11

Understanding how to deliver memorable and enjoyable experiences through ads may be key for marketers and service providers, especially as ad-supported streaming models expand and look to retain consumers. The challenge remains: How can ads go from a dreaded disruption to a more valuable, immersive streaming experience?

Implications for TMT executives

Frame nuanced ad strategies: Future ad strategies should account for the range of consumer experiences and interactions across platforms and could benefit from approaching ad delivery in more nuanced, thoughtful and engaging ways.

Customise ad experiences: Memorable ads are valuable, but focussing on more targeted ads could be key. Contextualising ads and making them relevant to the content the consumer is watching, listening to, or playing is the next step in customisation. Further personalising ads based on consumers’ interests could help dial up ad recall and enable marketers to get even more value from their campaigns on streaming platforms.12

Create new ad formats: New and innovative ad formats that are designed for streamers or for specific platforms could be powerful tools for minimising streaming breaks, cutting through the ad clutter and driving consumer engagement.13 The production of more non-intrusive and immersive ad experiences could be key to digital ad strategies.

Technology, Media & Telecommunications

Deloitte’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) industry practice brings together one of the world’s largest group of specialists respected for helping shape many of the world’s most recognised TMT brands—and helping those brands thrive in a digital world.

Learn more

  1. Sam Carr, “How many ads do we see a day in 2021? ,” PPC Protect, February 15, 2021.

    View in Article
  2. Nina Goetzen, “Ad-supported video viewership is on the rise, and so are marketing opportunities ,” eMarketer, March 29, 2021; Murray Stassen, “US recorded music revenues grew $1.5bn in H1 2021 compared to the first half of last year ,” Music Business World Wide, September 13, 2021.

    View in Article
  3. Kevin Westcott et al., Digital media trends, 15th edition , Deloitte Insights, April 16, 2021.

    View in Article
  4. Doug Gorman, “How effective are ads on social media? ,” GWI, March 25, 2021.

    View in Article
  5. Analysis based on data from Westcott et al., Digital media trends, 15th edition: To find the ad sentiment score of a particular service, we measured the proportion of consumers who found ads on that service memorable vs. those who found them annoying. So, it represents the percentage of US consumers who reported a service among the top five ones having the most annoying ads subtracted from the percentage of US consumers who reported that service among the top five ones having the most memorable ads.

    View in Article
  6. Jonathan Durante, “Three reasons you should be advertising on social media in 2021 ,” Forbes, March 12, 2021.

    View in Article
  7. Westcott et al., Digital media trends, 15th edition.

    View in Article
  8. Nat Ives, “Facebook ad campaign promotes personalized advertising ,” Wall Street Journal, February 25, 2021.

    View in Article
  9. Analysis based on data from Digital media trends, 15th edition.

    View in Article
  10. Ibid.

    View in Article
  11. Ibid.

    View in Article
  12. Forbes, “How to advertise on streaming video platforms: 14 essential tips ,” December 16, 2020; Steve Sobel, “Ads are back in: Monetizing beyond subscriptions and transactions in gaming ,” VentureBeat, February 28, 2021.

    View in Article
  13. Jon Lafayette, “GumGum streaming overlay ads don’t give viewers a break ,” Next TV, March 2021; Sahil Patel, “Startup pushes picture-in-picture ads for streaming TV ,” Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2021; Ben Munson, “Roku opens studio to push new ad formats, programming ,” Fierce Video, March 23, 2021; Dean Takahashi, “Zoomd: Playable ads have become the top way to target mobile gamers ,” VentureBeat, August 12, 2021.

    View in Article

The authors would like to thank Kevin DownsJeff Loucks, and Chris Arkenberg for their guidance and expertise on the content. They would also like to thank Shubham OzaRithu Mariam Thomas and Gautham Dutt for their production assistance.

Cover image by: Jaime Austin

Did you find this useful?

Thanks for your feedback

If you would like to help improve further, please complete a 3-minute survey