Are Digital Ads Spammy?

Can you believe it? It has been already 20 years since the introduction of banner ads! But the excitement about digital ads is long gone. Nowadays people often mentally block digital banners when browsing the internet.

A lot has changed over the years. Ads evolved from randomly placed images to personalised messages that will follow your internet journey and track your behaviour. Digital ads are connected with your social media preferences, your demographics and interests, your browsing habits and your location.

Does this sound a bit spammy? Maybe. But it also makes the ads more relevant for the user as only what interests will be shown. By collecting and using the right data marketers no longer just present random content to random people, but are showing ads that matter to the viewer.

The internet doesn’t like ads

If you ask anybody – except for your online marketer maybe – if they like digital ads, the answer will almost certainly be NO. Digital Ads are annoying, they disrupt whatever you were doing online and they feel like a violation of your privacy. Spammy? The internet would agree.

How are digital ads perceived?


So how should we approach digital ads in an era where ad blockers became standard and people often build negative connotations towards your digital ads? We’ve listed a couple of tips for you on how to get your ad marketing on point.

How to create Digital Ads that engage

1. Not all ads are equal

Important to remember here is that there are different types of digital ads. Maybe highly irrelevant banners that pop up all over the internet will be perceived as spammy, but what about a sponsored LinkedIn post, an ad in an e-newsletter or a native ad in an online journal newspaper?

What these types of ads have in common is that they aren’t disruptive with the platform they appear on, or that the audience opts in to receive them – making them more acceptable for people. In digital marketing, this type of placement is called ‘Audience Network’. If you have ever run a Facebook ad, you might have seen this type of placement when setting up an ad. Basically, you allow the ad channel to display your ad natively on a site with an audience match. You wrote an article that’s of interest to engineers? It might be placed on a popular engineering blog. Aiming to reach demography with a uni degree? Maybe a placement on a Sydney Morning Herald would be the best for you.

Outbrain ads Search Ads in Google follow the same principle and blend in with their environment. Pop-up ads, on the contrary, go directly against those two principles and are often experienced as the most annoying type of ad. In February, Google started blocking spammy pop-up ads in an intent to create more user-friendly digital ads. The new feature comes into effect in Google Chrome and will block ads from websites with too many spammy ads. Spammy ads are pop-ups with a countdown, sticky ads that don’t move and auto-play videos with sound.

When creating an ad strategy, try to think of the platforms your target audience hangs out at, and how you can advertise to them without disrupting what they were doing. Alternatively, consider native ads which are basically paid content. They are hard to spot and therefore not intrusive and quite likely convincing to click on or share via social media. Instead, use native advertising wherever possible. Native advertising is one way to connect with audiences who are normally tuning out and mentally blocking digital ads.

Native Ads


2. Valuable Ads

At first sight, digital ads don’t line up with the principles of inbound marketing. They are pushy and fight for their audience’s attention. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By creating ads that actually offer something to your customers, you can keep your ads in line with your inbound marketing strategy.

Try to create an ad for a blog post offering advice. Or advertise how you can help people with your services. Try to highlight what you can do for them, without being pushy. That way, you are still ‘pulling’ people to you, and you don’t scare them away.

3. Include your ads in your omnichannel marketing strategy

You might just have run an ad strategy focusing on pushing a certain line of products. Or you want to make them aware of your cheap prices. But is this in line with your strategy across all channels?

With cookies tracking your browsing behaviour, the Facebook Pixel retargeting you on your favourite social media channels and Google Adwords retargeting you for days after visiting a certain landing page, you want to make sure all these digital ads fit into that same story you’re telling. Instead of only pushing your products, you might want to think about running an ad for that campaign you were planning.

If you integrate ads into your overall marketing strategy, they will be less likely to be perceived as spammy or pushy but will be seen as a continuation of your message. Vice versa, once your customers click on your ads, they should be taken to a landing page that continues the same message and experience.

On a legal note

In the US as well as in Australia, misleading or deceptive advertising is prohibited by legislation, and native advertising is no exception. This means that a promotional message or advert needs to be recognizable as such. Responsible platforms and advertisers would mark our ad as ‘Promoted’ or ‘Sponsored Story’. Read the Native Advertising Principles here.

Native Advertising Platforms

If you are interested in running ads natively on audience networks we recommend you look into platforms like Outbrain and AdRoll.

Many marketers argue that native content is difficult to measure as it doesn’t stand out clearly enough from editorial content. However, we believe this is actually it’s strength as it’s not intrusive. In terms of measuring success, you could apply the same metrics that you use from other advertising platforms to proof the opposite. Click-through rates and social media sharing is according to the Native Advertising Institute are the most used metrics.

Native advertising is particularly interesting for marketers as its ability to naturally mesh with programmatic ads allows for even better targeting. Brands, as well as advertisers, love native ads cause click-throughs and engagement are usually much higher than traditional digital ads.Half of all consumers have no clue what native advertising is. Articles, infographics, video stories – done well, native ads can be interesting and engaging. Exactly what you want an ad to be. Not spammy.