LONDON: Just over half of UK consumers are put off buying products or services if they see the same online ad over and over again, according to a new survey.

Ad tech business InSkin Media and agency Rapp Media surveyed 1,600 UK adults for their report Familiarity, Frequency and Fine Lines and found that 55% were deterred by retargeted ads. Just 10% said they were more likely to buy something after seeing the same ad repeatedly, The Drum reported.

While more than half (53%) of respondents said that online ads were of interest on initial viewing, the law of diminishing returns set in rapidly. After being seen five times people found them "intrusive" and started to get annoyed – after the tenth time they had progressed to being angry.

On the plus side, ads viewed on relevant sites – such as a hotel ad on a holiday website – attracted much less ire, even if seen many times.

"The retargeting-genie is certainly out of the bottle, but it's a fine line to tread as brands potentially lose control through a perfect storm of increased automated buying and the spectre of consumer cookie deletion," said Paul Phillips, Rapp's head of media strategy.

"Marketers and planners are negligent if they don't devote more careful planning around frequency caps and other contextual filters before letting the maths men hit the send button," he added.

Timing was another particular bugbear for consumers, as the research showed that most were positive about ads they viewed when they were researching a purchase but that fell off quickly, not just after purchase, as one might expect, but even in the post-research, pre-purchase phase.

"Retargeted ads served after the research phase could potentially do more harm than good," Phillips observed.

The quality of a site was another important factor in the perception of retargeted ads. People were 37% more likely to click on an ad if it appeared on a site they trusted.

The industry had got carried away with retargeting, said Hugo Drayton, CEO of InSkin Media. "It's a powerful tool but it needs to be qualified by more thought and action to ensure it's used effectively," he added. Drayton also warned of the risk of alienating a generation of consumers.

Data sourced from The Drum, MediaTel; additional content by Warc staff