Cleaning Up the Ad Clutter

Lately, everybody in ad-tech has been talking about viewability and fraud. These are obviously important topics, but there is something else that has flown under the radar for far too long that I want to surface: ad clutter. A cluttered page creates tremendous distractions for the viewer, causing an undesirable experience and negatively impacting brand recall, consideration, and most importantly, engagement.

Advertising clutter refers to the large volume of advertising messages that the average consumer is exposed to on a daily basis. On a typical day, the average person will see or hear hundreds, if not thousands, of commercials across TV, billboards, print, radio, and digital.

Ad clutter creates major obstacles for attaining consumers’ attention, as an ad is only effective if it is seen. However, the environment where the ad is viewed is equally relevant. In traditional advertising, anything goes, and therefore, ads cover each and every inch of our world. Whether during our commute to work in a subway car or in the restroom of our favorite bar, there’s no escaping them, and it’s been made very clear that the sky is no longer the limit.


With more and more ad spend shifting to digital, the number of messages delivered to the public has increased at an incredible rate. We are experiencing advertising overload with an influx of pages being oversaturated with ads. The dramatic increase in demand for digital ad space has caused the amount of ad clutter to skyrocket. Online marketers are still fighting the age-old question of how to be heard over everybody else, but this time, things are different. The oversaturation of digital ads feels way more intrusive than traditional advertising. Ad clutter doesn’t just annoy the viewer; it diminishes ad effectiveness as well as impacts the viewer’s opinion.

In the digital age we are living in, it’s almost impossible to “disconnect.” Whether at work, relaxing at home, or out socializing with friends, it’s extremely rare to be without at least one screen: our mobile phone. This constant blitz of media is unpleasant for the consumer and ineffective for the marketer. There’s a line that’s being crossed. So how can advertisers get a message across within an environment that is appropriate and free of clutter?

Refocus on the Consumer: You’re lucky if a viewer gives your ad the time of day. Keep it simple; our brains subconsciously recognize and appreciate simplicity. Messages should be clean, clear, and direct.

Less Is More: Even if all ad placements are viewable and above the fold, ad clutter reduces ad noticeability and ad impact as each ad competes for the user’s attention. Reevaluate and cut back on the number of ads per page. Additionally, no advertiser wants to fight to have their ads seen (this especially matters in a programmatic environment).

Quality Over Quantity: Consider increasing the value of the ads and reducing the number of them. Although more expensive, rich media ads offer more ways to involve an audience. Rich media ads have functions for viewers to interact with, which increases brand awareness and message association in a positive way.

Give Options: The viewer should never feel like they do not have a choice or their personal space is being invaded. The constant bludgeoning of messages leads to increased ad skipping and site abandonment.

Own the Box: Consider exclusive placements or formats that behave more like television. Full-screen interstitials, large player pre-roll videos, or full-screen mobile videos are excellent choices for ensuring that there is no ad clutter and your brand is front and center. Also, look at alternative digital channels such as connected TV, radio, or digital out of home to differentiate yourself from competitors.

It will always be a struggle for advertisers to get their messages across to audiences. Just like in traditional advertising, this kind of intense competition will lead to more and more innovative methods of promotion across the digital landscape. Many media and technology vendors implement the process of “test, analyze, and innovate” to examine a variety of scenarios and leverage analytics to tell better stories and remove ad clutter.

What do you think?

Images via Shutterstock.

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