digital ad pollution posters on the side of a building
Paid Media

Digital Ad Pollution: What is it?

We see it in our oceans, our beaches, and our cities. Pollution is everywhere, including our Internet. Well, digital ad pollution, that is.

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What is Digital Ad Pollution?

If you’ve ever been watching YouTube only to be interrupted by a truly awful, ugly ad, that’s ad pollution. If you’ve ever been reading through a website and then had your sight assaulted by a garish display ad, that’s ad pollution too. It’s the reason ad blocker was born.

Basically, ad pollution is when an ad undermines the context and quality of the content around it.

Ad pollution example of classic Coke Coca-Cola ad of Santa drinking a bottle of Coke
Ad by Coca-Cola

The Good Old Days

We hate to pull the “back in my day” card, but in this case we have to. There’s a reason so many individuals find, collect, and frame old advertisements. They were aesthetically pleasing with limited copy, meant to enrich and inspire. Now, ads seem to often have a singular purpose of nailing an impression into your head, good or bad.

When we walk away from an interaction with an ad now, we’re less enchanted and more annoyed. We often feel like ads are permeating seemingly private spaces such as our social media profiles, streaming services, and more. If those ads were better matched to the quality of the content around them, would we be more inclined to lend an ear?

What the Public Have to Say About Ad Pollution

According to a study by Hubspot, “83% of people agree with the statement “Not all ads are bad, but I want to filter out the really obnoxious ones.” 

Furthermore, in the same study, “77% agree with the statement “I wish there were a way to ad-filter instead of ad-block completely.”

When we boil it down, consumers find ads annoying and intrusive, but not all of them.

The ads we don’t complain about, and sometimes seek out on our own, are those made in an artful, aesthetically pleasing way. We don’t see them as ads, we see them as content that supplements the content we’re already consuming. 

We enjoy watching Super Bowl ads because of the time and budget dedicated towards producing a quality end product. We also see viral ad campaigns float around social media all the time. They’re hardly ever that remarketing ad you threw together last minute. 

Combatting Ad Pollution

If ad pollution is a result of poorly made and poorly delivered advertisements, the best way to reverse it is by creating better made and better delivered ads. After all, according to a study by Harvard, “users make lasting judgements about a website’s appeal within a split second of seeing it for the first time.” It’s the same with your ads.

Ad pollution example of Greenpeace ad with turtle in a drink with a straw coming out of its mouth
Ad by Greenpeace USA

Use these methods to decrease digital ad pollution:

  • Value aesthetics. Brands like Apple, Coca-Cola, and Old Spice have a clearly defined aesthetic they pursue and deliver with each of their ads. The aesthetic is half the reason you remember the brand.
  • Value an impactful impression over a loud one. Aerie did exactly that when they began running ads with inclusive model casting and eliminated retouching. They marketing team put the cultural impact of the campaign before driving conversions.
  • Don’t demand engagement, invite it. Flashing pop ups, noisy autoplay videos, and all the other methods of interrupting a user’s website visit will do nothing more than bug them and leave a horrible impression of your brand. 
  • Enhance the media landscape instead of interrupting it. The more you can positively affect the space around your ad, the less of an easily ignored eyesore it will be.

Ads are an art, which is why we take such care to have trained graphic designers create them. At their best, they sell an ideal, not a product. 

Example of Ad Pollution IBM ad with faces
Ad by IBM

Doing Your Part

Our clients want ads that serve their needs, but also those of their prospective leads. As marketers, it is our duty to meet the needs of both. 

We’d love to create ads that help fulfill your business’ needs, too. Contact Jeff Hays, our director of client services, to schedule a chat. We’ll bring the beauty and charm to your ads that your brand deserves.

You may also contact us any time.

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