Avoiding Ad Avoidance

Juli Johnson: Group Media Director, BSSP

With thousands of ad exposures a day, no wonder ad avoidance is an issue. — Juli Johnson

Did you know the average American spends 444 minutes per day consuming on-screen media? That’s over seven hours every day. How is that even possible? It is, of course, and when I examine my own media habits it doesn’t take long to make sense of it. I am on my laptop all day and on my phone and/or laptop again in the evening watching TV. And time adds up fast when we are consuming up to three screens at once. As a marketer it makes me wonder, if our desired audience is spending seven hours a day consuming media of some sort, how many ads are they being exposed to and why would they pay attention to my brand/ad in the few seconds it has in front of them? Bear with me as I do some math.

In a two-minute Internet session that started on Facebook and continued onto a media publisher’s website that I clicked out on from my feed, I was exposed to 10 ads. Let’s go with an average of five ads per minute. If we applied that to the 444 minutes, that would be over 2,000 ads a day. Which ad did I remember of those 10? Let’s break down where those 444 minutes are being spent.

A study from the Atlantic took a look at share of screens and found the following:

While the study did not look at time spent consuming two screens at once, I think we can all agree there is cross-viewing happening to a certain extent.

Aside from the fight for time, there is also the issue of ad avoidance. While ad blocking is the topic du jour, it’s important to note that consumers have always avoided ads — whether throwing away direct mail or getting up off the couch during commercial breaks. But more than ever, it’s an issue that we must factor in as marketers.

Here are two things marketers can do to break through in the fragmented media world where ad avoidance is on the rise:

1. Content Integration:

Provide value to the consumer in areas that are important to them. As is the case with most relationships, meeting someone’s expectations and providing them something of value tends to generate a more positive experience and result in a more positive memory of the encounter. Brand experiences are not different. With your brand message as part of the content, ad blockers and DVRing will be less of an issue.

How to Get It Right

Understand what your consumer is paying attention to. What are they looking for on their screen/device? In auditing your consumer’s needs, you can uncover the rich area where your brand can play.

How It Can Go Wrong

If your brand doesn’t naturally fit into the conversation, there could be a problem. For example, a tire company may be a natural fit to provide the morning traffic report. But a company that sells kitty litter? Also, don’t let your brand get lost. It needs to be more than a logo. By making sure the content is a fit, it will be more likely that the brand takeaway will be more than just a logo.

2. Be Relevant and Adaptive:

One-size-fits-all assets just do not work. Every screen and platform is being used by the consumer to fill a different need. And to complicate matters further, each consumer’s need is different. Mass is out, and 1:1 is in.

How to Get It Right

Audit the consumer’s media and platform landscape across their journey. What are their expectations and mind-set when they are on certain devices? The answer will help uncover their ideal brand experience across touchpoints. What data do you have on that consumer to customize their message? Know the history and the relationship.

How It Can Go Wrong

Don’t let things get creepy. Just because I visited your site once, doesn’t mean I want to be placed on your email list and retargeted one second later in my Facebook feed for the next 48 hours. No one likes a stalker.


In today’s advertising landscape, connecting with consumers is harder than ever, given all the fragmentation, clutter and easily available blocking tools. Creating ads consumers welcome, however, starts with asking what matters to them, what devices they are on, and what content can be provided to help them.

About Juli Johnson

Juli got her start in advertising at Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, OR. She joined BSSP in 2007 as a cross-media planning specialist with an emphasis on connections planning and building brand equity through social and digital efficacy. Over the years she has helped move clients into diverse media mixes that are grounded in both innovation and results. In her nine years at BSSP, she has led a diverse portfolio of media accounts, including Columbia Sportswear, SOREL footwear, Sunrun, Logan’s Roadhouse, ZICO Premium Coconut Water, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Mountain Hardwear, Priceline, Roku and VeriSign/Symantec.

About BSSP

Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners is a full-service marketing communications agency, named “Best Small Agency of the Decade” by Adweek. Learn more at bssp.com.

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