Brands risk alienating consumers and damaging the effectiveness of their campaigns if they over-target their ads, according to a new survey that warns of growing antipathy towards advertising in the UK.

Kantar, the research and insights firm, has found that more than half (56%) of British consumers object to being targeted with ads based on their past activity online, while a similar proportion (55%) feel “completely apathetic” towards advertising, up from 53% in 2018.

In addition, Kantar’s Dimension study revealed that almost three-quarters (73%) of UK consumers report seeing the same ads “over and over again” and, as a result, just 11% said they enjoyed advertising.

However, on a more positive note, 61% agreed they were open to receiving ads relevant to them, while 45% found ads tailored to them were more interesting.

The study, which surveyed 5,000 online consumers in five markets with a combined total adspend of $352bn, also revealed that the proportion of UK consumers who use ad-blocking technology has remained steady at 22% over the past two years.

However, while that particular finding may provide some relief for advertisers, the report warned that consumers are finding new ways to circumvent advertising.

For example, more than a third (36%) of consumers in the UK cited the ability to avoid having to watch ads as their main reason for subscribing to a TV or video service.

“If brands and advertisers are going to rebuild – and retain – the trust of their audiences, we need to see more responsible use of data across the industry,” said Mark Inskip, CEO of Kantar UK and Ireland.

“By adopting an integrated approach, balancing niche targeting capabilities with mass marketing tactics, brands can provide consumers with a helpful, additive experience,” he added.

Also commenting on the findings, Cheryl Calverley, CMO of Eve Mattresses, one of 58 industry leaders who contributed to the report, said: “What you can’t see from data is the damage you might be doing by retargeting people endlessly with your products.”

Rebuilding trust in advertising was one of the key themes of last month’s ISBA annual conference in London where outgoing Unilever CMO Keith Weed warned the industry to avoid bombarding consumers with brand messages.

As well as reminding delegates of best practice, as set out in the IAB’s Gold Standard, he said brands should be mindful of the purpose of their advertising – is it for building the brand or for driving sales?

“Ultimately, advertising does good but with trust in decline, we risk it losing that positive influence. A brand without trust is simply a product and advertising without trust is just noise,” he said.

Sourced from Kantar Media; additional content by WARC staff