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Digital Marketing, Survey

What Consumers Want in Advertising

By Kristen Herhold
February 14, 2018

Consumers prefer advertisements that are on TV, humorous, and food-related, according to a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers.

Advertisements influence 90% of consumers, but what do consumers prefer when it comes to advertising?

Clutch surveyed 1,030 consumers from across the U.S. to determine their favorite advertising mediums and subject matters, as well as characteristics that make advertisements memorable.

Our Findings

  • The majority of consumers (58%) prefer TV advertisements over any other medium.
  • More consumers prefer Facebook (36%) over other forms of digital advertising.
  • About 80% of consumers prefer food and drink/restaurant advertisements over other categories.
  • Males are more likely to enjoy technology (49%) and sports (49%) advertisements, while women enjoy fashion and beauty (69%) and travel and leisure (54%) advertisements.
  • Consumers prefer advertisements that make them laugh; more than half (53%) say they remember and enjoy an advertisement if it is humorous.
  • Consumers prefer advertisements from brands they know and trust (51%).
  • Consumers dislike advertisements because they didn’t learn anything about the products (51%) or the advertisements were unrelatable (48%).

In this report, we examine consumer advertising preferences and use examples of successful advertisements, including those from Super Bowl LII.

Consumers Prefer TV Advertisements

Consumers favor TV advertising; more than half (58%) prefer to see or hear a TV advertisement over any other medium.

Advertising Mediums Consumers Prefer

Consumers prefer TV advertisements because they combine video and audio elements.

“A combination of video and audio in addition to the message is powerful,” said Rob Albertson, managing director of Bandwidth Marketing, an agency with clients such as Allstate, Gore-Tex, and GrubHub. “You’ve got a much greater chance of making a connection.”

TV advertisements connect with consumers because they bring a product to life.

TV Advertisements Entertain Consumers

Consumers remember TV advertisements because they are entertaining.

65% of consumers remember TV advertisements more than any other medium.

Brands understand the entertainment value of TV advertisements, especially during the Super Bowl.

“TV has a high entertainment value,” said Julie Wierzbicki, account director at Giants & Gentlemen, an advertising and design agency with clients such as Days Inn, Fisherman’s Friend, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. “Look at the Super Bowl ads. It’s something that people watch for entertainment well after the actual game. These ads have more than just a singular purpose of advertising; they’re meant to entertain us.”

In a 52-year span, companies have spent $5.4 billion on advertising during the Super Bowl – $419 million in 2018 alone.

Companies spend this much on television advertisements during the Super Bowl because they are memorable and effective.

For example, Tide had four commercials during the 2018 Super Bowl – all imitating other categories of commercials, from insurance and automotive to personal care and beer advertisements.

Tide Super Bowl LII advertisement

Tide’s advertisements were memorable because they were entertaining – not because they successfully advertised laundry detergent.

The company won the Super Clio, an award honoring the game’s best commercial and had nearly 164,000 mentions on social media during the Super Bowl.

Consumers’ Preferred Digital Advertising is Facebook

Among consumers who identify online or social media as their preferred advertising medium, the most (36%) prefer Facebook advertisements.

Digital Advertising Types Consumers Prefer

Although most consumers prefer TV advertisements, some companies, such as software and app developer MojoTech, find the most success advertising on Facebook.

MojoTech Facebook advertisement

“On Facebook, we target customers based on demographic interests like company size and job titles,” said MojoTech Director of Agency Development Brandyn Morelli. “For us, a successful advertisement is about finding the right audience match. I find success by matching our ad audiences to our ideal customer avatars.”

With Facebook, MojoTech can target advertisements toward an audience who is more likely to be interested in the company’s services. These consumers are more likely to respond to an advertisement that is more relevant to them.

Some consumers also respond to other types of digital advertisements.

For example, smartphone repair company uBreakiFix sees the best results from digital advertising, especially on Google.

uBreakiFix Google advertisement

“On digital, people are reactive; people search for smartphone repair services, and we appear in the search,” said Digital Marketing Manager Jonathan Alonso. “Being able to win those opportunities via advertising allows us to expand and reach consumers faster. Digital is where we’ve had the most impact for our stores.”

Advertising online helps uBreakiFix reach consumers who are seeking an immediate service.

Consumers Dislike Retargeted Advertisements

Digital advertising has its limits.

The fewest number of respondents (2%) prefer retargeted advertisements, or advertisements from a site they recently visited.

Only 2% of consumers prefer retargeted advertisements

People dislike retargeted advertisements because they find them invasive to their privacy.

“People are very suspicious of retargeted ads,” Wierzbicki said. “If you’re Googling ideas for a gift, and an advertisement for a website you just visited comes up, it can be creepy. We’re in the early stages of this, so it makes sense that this would be problematic for some people.”

Retargeted advertisements are newer forms of advertisements, so consumers find them irritating and invasive.

Food and Drink Advertisements Appeal to Basic Human Needs

Consumers prefer advertisements that appeal to their sense of taste.

About 80% of consumers say food and drink/restaurant advertisements are their favorite category of advertising.

Advertisement Categories Consumers Like Most

Food and drink is a category that appeals to everyone.

“Everyone needs to eat, so the connection is almost a given,” Albertson said. “Plus, the visual aspects in a food advertisement versus almost any other medium targets your taste buds – (like) a gorgeous pizza with cheese dripping.”

For example, many pizza restaurants, such as Pizza Hut, include visuals of a customer pulling a pizza apart with the “cheese dripping.”

Pizza Hut advertisement

A food advertisement like Pizza Hut’s, with visually enticing food, appeals to a consumer’s basic instinct: the need to eat.

Men and Women Display Different Advertisement Preferences

Although both men and women enjoy food and drink advertisements the most, there is a gender divide among other advertising preferences; males prefer technology and sports advertisements, while females prefer fashion/beauty and travel/leisure advertisements.

Men and Women Prefer Different Advertisement Categories

Consumers like advertisements that appeal to their interests.

“It comes down to their basic interests; the things you’re interested in are the things you like to see advertised,” Albertson said. “Males potentially are less interested in travel, and most of the men I know are not particularly interested in beauty, so their advertising preferences fall in line with that.”

Gender advertising preferences tend to align with gender stereotypes. This alignment, though, may be changing.

“We’ve changed a lot as a society, but gender paradigms are still very strong,” Wierzbicki said. “Things are changing quickly in the present day, and if we were able to take another look at this in just a few years, I think there would be big shift. Maybe the preferences won’t be as stereotypical anymore.”

Because gender stereotypes are becoming less defined, the divide in advertising preferences between genders may not be as extreme in the future.

Some companies create advertisements that appeal to both men and women’s preferences.

For example, Universal Studios’ 2018 Super Bowl advertisement featured former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning enjoying a theme park.

Universal Studios Super Bowl LII advertisement with Peyton Manning

This Universal Studios advertisement appeals to both genders’ advertising preferences: travel for females and sports for males.

Technology & Sports Advertisements Appeal to Men’s Sense of Humor

About half of males (49%) say both technology and sports advertisements are among their favorite.

Given these preferences, sports and technology companies tend to create advertisements that appeal more to males.

“Advertisers who see tech or sports as more appropriate or appealing for men will create ads that have (those) elements in them,” said Albertson. “Slapstick humor is funnier to men than it is to women, so that’s what may end up in ads that are assumed to be ‘men-favored’ products, services, or industries. In other words, Super Bowl ads.”

In 2017, 74% of males and 59% of females watched the Super Bowl. Because more men than women tend to watch it, advertisements during the game are geared more toward men and their preferences, especially sports advertisements.

49% of men prefer sports advertisements.

For example, well-known New York Giants players Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. spoofed “Dirty Dancing” in an advertisement for the NFL.

Super Bowl LII NFL advertisement with Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.

The commercial showed the two players dancing the final scene of “Dirty Dancing,” an homage to the NFL lifting its ban on dancing after touchdowns during the 2017 season.

This advertisement is more likely to appeal to men – who make up 55% of the NFL’s viewership – because that group is statistically more likely to know about players and recent rule changes. Women, however, are increasingly watching the NFL, so advertisements like this one can appeal to both genders.

Men also prefer technology advertisements.

49% of men prefer technology advertisements.

Because men like technology advertisements, they likely enjoyed Sprint’s Super Bowl advertisement more than women.

Sprint Super Bowl LII advertisement

The advertisement shows a room of robots making fun of their creator for still using Verizon. The creator switches to Sprint because his “coworkers were making fun of” him – slapstick humor Albertson says males enjoy.

Fashion/Beauty & Travel Advertisements Inspire Women Consumers

Women enjoy fashion/beauty (69%) and travel/leisure advertisements (54%).

Fashion/beauty advertisements provide inspiration for many women.

“For women, it’s more of ‘That inspires me and speaks to me or that person reminds me of me a little bit,’” said Michael Ancevic, managing partner and chief creative officer of The Fantastical, an advertising agency with clients such as Samuel Adams, Panera Bread, and TripAdvisor. “They’re passion categories, and a lot of them are passion brands that people feel deeply about and what they’re selling and how it fits organically into their belief systems and lifestyles.”

Fashion and beauty advertisements appeal to women because women are passionate about those subjects and strive to be like the people featured in these advertisements.

69% of women prefer fashion/beauty advertisements.

Women’s clothing company Fabletics, for example, appeals to women’s interest in fashion on Facebook.

Fabletics Facebook avertisement

Of the more than 10,000 interactions on the Fabletics Facebook advertisement, not a single person put the “angry” or “sad” reaction.

Travel advertisements are also enjoyable to women because they provide an escape from everyday life.

“Good travel and leisure advertisements transport people to a place or a mindset, so there’s a level of aspiration and escape from day-to-day life,” said Ancevic, who also served as the global creative director for the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts brand for 7 years.

54% of women prefer travel/leisure advertisements.

For example, Tourism Australia’s 2018 Super Bowl advertisement featured Chris Hemsworth and Danny McBride traveling around Australia.

Super Bowl LII Tourism Australia advertisement

The advertisement displays beautiful scenes of Australia and provides the level of escape Ancevic mentioned.

Consumers Prefer Humorous Advertisements

Consumers want to laugh when they see or hear advertisements; more than half (53%) say an advertisement is memorable and enjoyable if it is humorous.

Consumers Like Advertisements If They're:

Humor appeals to consumers because it gives them a break from everyday life.

“Humor is just something people like to feel,” Ancevic said. “It’s a bit of a break from other news in the world or the seriousness of life in general. Laughing can create a nice and memorable moment for certain brands, and as an advertiser, it’s sometimes good to be associated with that kind of emotion if done correctly. It’s a tried and true technique.”

According to Northwestern University’s 2018 Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review, all six advertisements that received an “A” grade were humorous, including the top-ranking advertisement, Amazon Alexa.

In the advertisement, Alexa loses her voice and is replaced by several celebrities, including Gordon Ramsey, Cardi B, Rebel Wilson, and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Super Bowl LII Amazon Alexa advertisement with Gordon Ramsey, Cardi B, Rebel Wilson, and Sir Anthony Hopkins

The advertisement was successful because it “ultimately was fun to discuss and share with those around you,” according to Derek D. Rucker, professor at the Kellogg School of Management.

Another successful example of humorous advertisements is clothing company Shinesty; the company was founded on humor, so, naturally, its advertisements are humorous.

Shinesty Facebook advertisement

“From an advertising perspective, we focus on entertaining first and selling second,” Shinesty co-founder and CEO Chris White said. “We’re poking fun at everything in life that is too serious. We take pictures in a way that makes them look like high fashion pictures, but they’re ridiculous products.”

Making people laugh in its advertisements help Shinesty become memorable to potential customers.

Marketing and website development company MSCO also uses humor in its advertising strategy with the slogan “Your Marketing Sucks.”

MSCO advertisement: "Your Marketing Sucks"

“Your Marketing Sucks” works as the company’s advertising slogan because people remember its humor.

“For more than a decade, the firm has used this pretty simple phrase,” MSCO partner Robert Soniker said. “We pride ourselves on our very memorable and simplified but powerful message. It’s a three-word message that people remember.”

Humorous advertisements don’t have to be complicated; they can be simple and still make an impression on consumers.

Consumers Like Advertisements From Brands They Trust

Consumers also enjoy advertisements from brands they have experience with; 51% say an advertisement is memorable and enjoyable if it is from a brand they know and trust.

51% of consumers like and remember advertisements from brands they trust.

Consumers are more drawn to advertisements from brands they trust because they feel more connected to the products advertised.

“When consumers connect with a brand, it builds a bond of trust,” said Meghan Mietus, marketing and business development manager of brand design agency MiresBall. “They are then more likely to support that brand, engage in communications with the company, and purchase the products and services.”

Trust drives consumers to support a brand and enjoy its advertisements.

For example, Budweiser forewent its typical Clydesdale Super Bowl advertisements in favor of a more emotional advertisement that shows the company providing water to residents in areas of recent natural disasters – Texas, California, Florida, and Puerto Rico.

Budweiser Super Bowl LII advertisement

The advertisement gives the brand a more authentic, responsible feel to it, which is more likely to convert among consumers who like advertisements from trustworthy brands.

Consumers Want to Learn About and Relate to a Product

A successful advertisement relates to consumers and teaches them about the product; consumers dislike advertisements that fail to do so.

About half of consumers say they dislike advertisements because they either didn’t learn anything (51%) or could not relate to the product (48%).

Consumers Dislike Advertisements If They're:

An advertisement needs to be relatable or it won’t connect with consumers.

“What makes an advertisement bad is a lack of a connection,” Albertson said. “If it’s just a mouth piece and there’s no thought behind it, it won’t appeal to consumers. At the core, it needs to be about the viewer’s time, so the more they learn, relate, or, at best, bond with the product, that’s what makes for good marketing.”

For example, Dodge Ram’s 2018 Super Bowl advertisement used a speech from Martin Luther King Jr. to sell cars.

Dodge Ram Super Bowl LII advertisement

Consumers could not relate to an advertisement that combined a civil rights leader and cars. Of the 24,700 social media mentions of Dodge Ram during the Super Bowl, half were negative.

Preferences Shape How Consumers Engage With Advertisements

Advertisements appeal to consumers’ emotions and senses; they have the power to make consumers laugh, crave food, or want to see the world. Advertisements connect with consumers.

Every consumer’s taste in advertising is different. If done correctly, an advertisement can successfully appeal to its target audience, which, in turn, will lead to a purchase and repeat, happy customers.

About the Survey

Clutch surveyed 1,030 consumers in the United States who have seen or heard an advertisement in the past week.

About 45% of respondents are male; 55% are female.

About 28% of respondents are aged 18 to 34, 40% are 35 to 54, and 32% are 55 and older.

Nearly half of respondents (47%) have a household income of less than $49,999, 36% $50,000 to $99,999, and 17% over $100,000.