Ad Avoidance in the Age of the Internet of Things

In Advertising by MediaVision

Ad avoidance and the Internet of things


If you made it through the long-winded title of this article, then you probably already understand what we’re talking about, but for the benefit of those who don’t, let’s briefly define the two key terms:

Ad Avoidance: A behaviour characterised by an unbridled hatred for advertising, resulting in sometimes extreme actions intended to circumvent, avoid or violently destroy adverts.

The internet of things: A term used to describe the ever growing network of home and office appliances which have web access.

Now that we’re on the same page, let’s get right into it. The Internet of Things (IoT) is already “a thing” and its growth is unprecedented. There are a myriad fascinating topics that we could discuss regarding the IoT, but our focus in this article is its impending influence on our very own mad world of marketing.

Why Do We Care?

A recent survey by Marketo found that 51% of top global marketers expect the IoT to revolutionise the global marketing landscape by 2020. The rapid acceptance of technologies which are making the IoT possible is easy to understand, given that people have already come to expect the immediacy and convenience of solutions like cloud-based software.


[tweetthis url=”″ remove_hidden_hashtags=”true”]51% of top global marketers expect the IoT to revolutionise the global marketing landscape by 2020[/tweetthis]


Leading the charge in terms of connected devices that will make up the IoT are home electronics like thermostats, security systems, refrigerators and vacuum cleaners. Smart wearables and clothing are already moving in to complete the package. So what difference might all these devices having an internet connection make to marketers? Simply; personal data of unparalleled depth and detail.

If you think being able to target consumers based on their Facebook activity or browsing history is handy, just imagine having access to data which tells you when your target audience likes to cook or eat. How would it change things if you knew when and how your audience choses to clean their homes, or what makes them feel safe at night. What if you knew where your targets work out and what activities they prefer, or having a complete picture of a buyer’s journey down the funnel. If the marketing hemispheres of your brain aren’t tingling at these prospects, then check your pulse.

Marketers will need no prompting to put this kind of information to use in creating far more personalised campaigns, which will be presented only at the most opportune moments. If all goes to plan, consumers will only be seeing ads that are relevant to their current location or activity. You’ll be urged to buy this energy drink before your workout, or your fridge will recommend that you buy that brand of cheese when it sends you its restock alerts. It’s all very exciting, but there’s a big question hanging above it all like a hawk choosing its next move from the wing.

Are we just going to piss people off?

Ad Avoidance across different media

Excalibur or just another billy club?

A hard-learned truth is that it’s simply impossible to predict these things, so instead of arguing the validity of a single perspective, I’m simply going to lay a small collection of evidence before you, and we can all take our own guesses.

The biggest factor that’s getting marketers all hot around the collar about the IoT, is the intimacy and detail of the data it will allow us to gather. This data will allow us to create highly targeted advertising with unprecedented accuracy. The problem is, the medium that currently allows the most personalised, targeted advertising, also appears to be the space where advertising is tolerated least.


[tweetthis url=”″ remove_hidden_hashtags=”true”]The medium that currently allows the most  targeted advertising, is where advertising is tolerated least.[/tweetthis]


A survey conducted by Sifo Research, which compared advertising avoidance behaviour across all mainstream media, indicated that Internet advertising is, by a considerable margin, the most avoided. Only TV and radio managed to keep up in terms of viewers and listeners going out of their way to skip or eliminate advertising from their experience entirely. Of critical importance to this argument, is the researchers’ supposition that survey respondents were specifically referring to display advertising.

So if the medium that currently provides marketers with the most detailed, up-to-date behavioural information is also the medium most affected by ad avoidance, then why are we getting so excited about gaining yet more insight into our targets’ lives?

A widely held belief is that the IoT will herald the rise of advertising that shows itself only when it is valuable to its target. You won’t just be targeting people who have Googled “fresh fish New York” at some point in the last month, you’ll be targeting people who have asked their fridge to check if there is any fish at home, and are on their way to buy some fresh fish in New York. It’s easy to see how this next level of targeted advertising might quickly become more valuable to targets, and thus, to marketers.

There is No Try, Only Do

The fact remains though, that our job is to persuade human beings to do what we want them to do, and that task isn’t going to become any less complicated. The study by Sifo Research also indicated that those who avoid advertising on one medium, almost always avoid it in all other media they consume too. Thus, ad avoidance has a lot to do with an audience’s general attitude towards advertising and in some cases, advertising will breed contempt for a brand, regardless of how meticulously it is placed, or how narrowly it is targeted.


[tweetthis url=”” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true”]In some cases, ads will breed contempt for a brand, regardless of how narrowly they are targeted.[/tweetthis]


I’ll conclude with a quote from Sifo Research’s study, which I think sums up the situation nicely. “Marketers have a joint responsibility not to contribute to advertising fatigue simply by shouting louder. Sometimes a whisper is enough: if you whisper the right thing at the right time, this is often even the most effective way of reaching in if everybody else is shouting. But in order to do this, we must re-learn to understand people better. By understanding people, we will also understand when, how and where we can and shall communicate.”

So my fellow marketers. What say you? Is the IoT going to be our proverbial Pied Piper’s flute, or just a way for us to annoy people on a more personal level?

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