May 2020 Snapshot:

Assessing Ad Relevance

Assessing Ad Relevance

People encounter advertising all throughout their day — whether working, shopping, or unwinding with media. While ad impressions are inevitable, ad relevance — and thus ad impact — is not. So, how often are the ads people see relevant to their interests and needs? How do audiences feel as a result?

To answer these questions, DISQO has been conducting regular surveys of our audience members, asking them to share:

  • Consumer interest in viewing relevant ads
  • Relevance of typical ads seen
  • Factors that determine ad relevance
  • Consumer sentiment in relation to ads

Today, DISQO is sharing the result of a sample survey of 999 people, which was conducted in May, 2020. In July, DISQO will share a larger study on the same topic, encompassing the results of six months of consumer responses regarding ad relevance.

Thank you!

Interest in Relevant Ads

Strong interest in relevant advertising undulates between age groups, trending lower with age. With respect to overall interest, those between 55 and 64 years old (88%) and 18 to 24 years old (87%) are most likely to be interested in seeing relevant ads. People 65 to 74 years of age, however, are least likely (72%).

Viewership of Relevant Ads

While most people want to see relevant ads (82%), that’s not always their reality. Indeed, only 54% claim that the ads they tend to see are relevant to their interests.

Viewership of Relevant Ads by Age
N = 999 DISQO Audience survey, May 12—15, 2020
Q: I tend to see relevant Ads 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65-74 75+
Strongly agree 16.7% 20.5% 23.5% 19.5% 13.1% 8.2% 14.3%
Agree 43.8% 36.3% 33.5% 36.7% 40.2% 33.2% 36.7%
Neutral 25.9% 27.9% 29.6% 28.9% 29.9% 35.3% 28.6%
Disagree 11.1% 11.6% 11.7% 14.1% 15.0% 16.9% 14.3%
Strongly Disagree 2.5% 3.7% 1.7% 0.8% 1.9% 6.5% 6.1%

Examining responses by age, it is evident that advertisers are faring better with younger generations than older groups. Specifically, those 18 to 24 years old (60%) are most likely to agree that the ads they tend to see are relevant. While every age bracket holds a majority who agree with this statement, 65 to 74 year-olds are the only group with less than a majority who claim to see relevant ads (41%).

Proportion of Relevant Ads

A reminder of the elusiveness of delivering the right message at the right time, only one third of people feel that most or all of the advertising they see is relevant.

While advertiser and audience alike would reasonably prefer if most ads were relevant to most people, the reality falls a bit short. Nonetheless, a majority (62%) do find that at least half of the ads they see are relevant.

Still, another 34% claim only some are relevant and 4% state that none of the ads they see are relevant.

Interestingly, a slight geographical divide emerged here, as those in the South were the most likely (11.1%) to state that all of the ads they see are relevant, notably higher than the Northeast (6.7%), West (7.6%), or Midwest (8.5%). Meanwhile, those in the Northeast (1.9%) were considerably less likely to believe that none of the advertising they see is relevant.

Elements of a Relevant Ad

Most commonly, people expressed that ads that match their interests are relevant to them. Granted, interest is an ambiguous term that would merit further exploration. To that end, indicators as to what might spark an interest might be found in other top responses, such as whether the product being advertised appears to satisfy a need (24%), whether the messaging and content is relatable (14%), or if the product clearly satisfies a want (12%).

Why It Matters

Beyond immediate campaign KPIs, the perception of ad relevance can greatly affect audience sentiment, and thus brand affinity. As noted in the downloadable report, most people (81.6%) will respond positively when exposed to a relevant ad, but many (55.8%) will respond negatively to irrelevant content.

Elements of an Irrelevant Ad

Uninteresting, unnecessary, and unrelatable ads are perceived as irrelevant. Disinterest in the product being advertised was the most frequently mentioned contributor of ad irrelevance (36%) in this free response question. Granted, a number of factors can affect audience interest, for which campaign specific ad effectiveness testing and research would be recommended.

Thus, it may be more universally beneficial to unpack the other top contributors to ad irrelevance: lack of need for the product being advertised (17%), unrelatable messaging (16%), lack of perceived usability (10%), and annoying ads (7%). Anecdotally, a notable number of the open response commentary regarding lack of product need referenced ads for products already purchased and thus no longer needed.

Similarly, many who expressed frustration with unrelatable advertising described instances where ads they were exposed to were clearly not meant for their demographic group. Meanwhile, a plurality of those who discussed a lack of usefulness described a frustration with unclear messaging, suggesting ad creatives simply weren’t clear enough to be relevant.


This survey on ad relevance was conducted online, distributed to a nationally representative sample of DISQO Audience members within the United States via the Survey Junkie platform, which is wholly owned by DISQO. Surveys were taken on both desktop and mobile devices. A total of 999 responses were collected over a four-day period, from May 12, 2020 through May 15, 2020.


DISQO is a consumer-first insights platform that delivers unprecedented data and analytics to the market research industry. The company powers insights professionals and marketers with automated solutions that drive consumer research and improve ad effectiveness. Today, DISQO delivers an accurate and complete view of the consumer via technology built on the foundation of the largest first-party research audience. By engaging consumers who choose to share their attitudes and behaviors, DISQO captures the highest quality data, empowering its clients to make confident decisions. Founded in 2015, DISQO is headquartered in Los Angeles, California, and has over 140 employees.