6 Signs You’re Doing Digital Advertising All Wrong

6 Signs You’re Doing Digital Advertising All Wrong

Ever heard the name Ethan Zuckerman? If you haven’t, you most likely know his work. In a 2014 article in The Atlantic, Zuckerman admits that he is the architect behind one of the most hated features of traveling online: pop-ads. Calling them the internet’s “original sin,” Zuckerman calls on marketers to find a better way to advertise online.

That doesn’t mean that all ads are created equal, however. At the top of the list for most hated ads are pop-up ads, seemingly confirming Zuckerman’s statement that they are the internet’s “original sin.” Second place is mobile ads with a 70% disapproval rate, followed by video ads that play before other content loads, like on Youtube (57%).

Is Zuckerman right? Do customers really hate online advertising that much?

The answer is both “yes” and a surprising “no.”

While 91% of people say that ads are more intrusive than they were 2-3 years ago and 87% of people are convinced that there are more ads today than there were then, it turns out that people really only hate poorly done ads instead of just advertising in general. 83% of respondents to the same study quoted above agreed with the statement: “Not all ads are bad, but I want to filter out the really obnoxious ones.”

The solution for digital marketers is simple: Make better ads.

Advertisements that actually cause people to be intrigued about a product or service, instead of dazzling people with bright colors, sounds, and a spontaneous appearance from out of nowhere. Indeed, one of the biggest pain points with advertising is the number of accidental clicks, which increases the bounce rate and destroys domain authority. Of respondents, nearly 1/3 of all clicks were accidental. What’s more, nearly half couldn’t tell you what specifically about the ad garnered their click, it “just so happened to interest” them.

In order to create better quality advertisements (ones that actually get real, interested leads), here are a few things to keep in mind.

Use Professional Looking Ads

Though this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s surprising how many businesses base their entire inbound marketing strategy off the backs of poorly done ads that look like total garbage. This isn’t purely a complaint about design (color choices, text fonts, etc), but more about when ads look cluttered, disjointed, or downright confusing. If you can afford it, hire a designer; if you can’t, keep it simple.

Don’t Use Autoplay

Just don’t. As Michael Scott would say, “Don’t ever, for any reason…no matter what, no matter where…” ever use autoplay on your videos.


82% of people admit that they have closed out of an entire webpage simply because of the fact that they were forced into watching an ad. If your ad isn’t skippable, don’t include it as part of your marketing plan.

Keep It Intelligent

Or, to put it another way, don’t make your consumers feel dumb. More than half of consumers feel like the advertisement is talking down to them, which is insulting and almost always results in a missed opportunity. Don’t make it highbrow by using twelve-syllable words, but don’t also appeal to the absolute lowest common denominator as well.

Be Honest With Your Intentions

15% of all ad clicks are performed because – per the customer’s words – the company tricked them into clicking the ad, usually by promising one thing and delivering something vastly different. Misleading your customer base is a fantastic way to spread hatred and ill will among your target demographic.

Don’t Use Creepy Retargeting Methods

Have you ever drove into a car lot and stopped at a certain car, only to have the salesperson follow you around and ask you if you’re still interested in that specific car? No? Why not? Because they know that what you’re looking for is maybe not that specific car, but one that was like that car. The same goes for your retargeting methods. The last thing people want is to feel like your company is stalking them through their online journey, so approach retargeting with a bit more finesse.

Be Judicious With Pop-Ups

If you’re forced to use pop-ups in your advertising for whatever reason, be selective about where and when you use them. Make them appear after the user has scrolled down the page, watched a video, or received some other benefit. Also, make the “X” on your page big enough that they can click out if they want to. 89% of people say ads that they’re forced to close out are “really frustrating,” so make it easier on them to do so.


While nearly everyone admits that interacting with advertisements is a necessary part of venturing online, the way you go about it can make a big impact on your customer base, whether good or bad. The next time you map out your advertising plan, consider your end customer first and everything else second.

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