Repeating Ads: Good Business?

October 3, 2022

Ad tiers are a viable way to make streaming services affordable to more viewers, a reality even Netflix and Disney Plus have accepted. There is just one problem. The Verge implores, “Streaming Services Need to Stop Showing Me the Same Ad Over and Over (and Over).” Writer David Pierce describes an annoyance all too familiar to many of us: shows punctuated with the same ad so often one involuntarily memorizes it. A first-world problem to be sure, but maddening none the less. Advertisers bear the brunt of viewer annoyance—too much repetition and viewers may vow never to purchase the now overly familiar product. But it is not advertisers’ fault. The write-up explains:

“There’s a perfectly rational reason for why this happens, by the way. It’s all about ad targeting. Let’s just take my own recent example, CroppMetcalfe. I’m a new homeowner, in the company’s area of service, with a 20-year-old HVAC unit that we know is going to need to be replaced soon. There’s a pretty good chance CroppMetcalfe knows that, too! I’m absolutely the company’s target market. But there aren’t that many people in my exact situation, and Peacock surely promised the company a certain number of ad impressions. If there were a million people who fit the bill, no problem. But if there are 500 of us, and a million impressions to serve, I’m going to get an awful lot of that five-star jingle. Everybody involved has a reason to fix this, too. There’s evidence to show that people who see the same ad over and over and over actually become less likely to buy the thing being advertised, and customers have been complaining about repetitive ads for years. In a Morning Consult survey from last year, 69 percent of respondents said the ads on streaming services were either ‘very repetitive’ or ‘somewhat repetitive.'”

To make matters worse there is currently no way to coordinate ad campaigns across providers, which means the same repeated ads dog viewers from platform to platform. The important question is whether showing the same ad over and over again is a type of online advertising fraud. Annoyance is one thing; sucking down the advertiser’s money for zero payoff or even negative returns is quite another. Pierce offers a couple suggestions. He likes the rare practice of showing one long ad at the beginning of a show and leaving viewers to watch the rest in peace. Then there are ads that display on the pause screen when one has already interrupted oneself. Whatever the solution, it would be best to fix the problem before someone gets sued.

Could this repetition be a form of “soft” fraud?

Cynthia Murrell, October 3, 2022


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