Viewers are Underwhelmed by Shoppable Ads, Even as Networks Tout Them According to New Poll

Multi-tasking viewers are loathe to make purchases while watching shows, latest Ad Age-Harris Poll reveals

By Ethan Jakob Craft | Ad Age | May 24, 2021

Consumers are showing little enthusiasm for buying products by clicking on ads that run during streaming programming, according to a new poll—a potentially worrying sign for networks that have invested heavily in the so-called shoppable ads.

Barely one-third of respondents to the latest Ad Age-Harris Poll said they would be willing to buy a product or service directly from an ad during a show, with just 36% of consumers signalling that they’re open to the idea. The poll also found that 78% of repspondents multitask during commercial breaks, including channel surf or check their phones.

That preoccupation is potentially devastating to advertisers, particularly those who’ve toyed with the idea of creating interactive, shoppable media inventory during streaming services’ ad breaks. NBC, for example, has touted its PayPal-backed One Platform Commerce technology as a game changer for advertisers by allowing the public to buy products directly in-ad, rather than being redirected to a third-party retailer’s site.

The poll was conducted online on May 18 and 19 among 1,075 U.S. adults.

5 key data points you won’t want to overlook:

• 36% of those surveyed said they would consider buying a product or service directly from an in-show ad, dealing a blow to networks who’ve been banking on the popularity of shoppable media.

Nearly 80% of Americans don’t want to watch ads. Respondents reported using commercial breaks as opportunities to check their phones, channel surf or do other activities.

• At least 65% agree that they would turn off a show if its ad load was too heavy, with just 19% expecting to see four or more ads during a 30-minute show.

80% would prefer to see ads before a show than in the middle of it—on linear TV and ad-supported streaming viewers.

• 69% of users say they’ve paid to get rid of ads. Users of live TV streaming platforms such as Hulu Live and YouTube TV are upgrading to ad-free service tiers in greater numbers than any other category.

The roll out of shoppable video has been expanding in recent years based on the assumption that it would drive brands’ ad engagement, but networks seem to still have a long way to go in making inroads with the majority of consumers who are currently hesitant to follow through with in-ad purchases.

That’s not to say that there is nothing that might boost engagement among the general public. Forty-nine percent of respondents are more likely to interact with an ad in exchange for a discount on whatever is being advertised, and 56% would interact if it meant receiving an otherwise ad-free viewing experience for the rest of their show.

Most viewers are comfortable with and have even come to expect some commercials in their ad-based viewing experiences—87% expect to see a minimum of one or two during a 30-minute show. But nearly two-thirds said that if a show’s ad load is too heavy, they would rather turn off the content than tolerate the tsunami of marketing.

The poll also found that 80% of broadcast and ad-supported streaming viewers would prefer to watch advertising before a program rather than during it.

Three-in-five respondents prefer to watch commercials relevant to a show’s content, whether that relevance comes in tone, theme or type of products advertised. Conversely, more than half said seeing the same actors in both a show and an in-show commercial may be overkill.

Apathy toward advertising—particularly when ad frequency is high—has helped fuel the rise of subscriber-supported streaming platforms. The majority of poll respondants using streaming platforms have upgraded to ad-free subscription tiers.

Among users of live TV streaming platforms such as Sling and Hulu Live, 69% upgraded to an ad-free experience. Among broadcaster-owned streamers including Xfinity Stream and Dish Anywhere, 65% have gone ad-free. Among those using streaming services tied to a specific network, including NBC’s Peacock and Discovery+, 61% have upgraded to platforms without advertising.

Read the full story at Ad Age.