Survey: Two Thirds of Viewers Don’t Actively Watch TV Ads

(Image credit: Pixabay)

MONTREAL, Canada—Despite all the chatter about making TV advertising more appealing to consumers with better targeting and storytelling, a new study from Sharethrough indicates that the lack of interest in TV advertising remains a major problem. 

In a December 2021 survey of 1,000 U.S. and Canadian viewers released this week, Sharethrough found that 66% of viewers say they don’t actively watch TV ads, with 64% grabbing their phones during a commercial break, 21% switching to another channel, and 15% leaving the room or doing something else. 

Worse, the actual number of people uninterested in ads is even higher. Among the 34% that say the usually do watch TV ads, 28% say they typically watch on mute which implies that 76% of people are not actively watching TV ads, Sharethrough said. 

The survey also found that 36% of people often mute their TV during commercials, with 46% of those saying they mute commercial because they find TV commercials are too loud or find them annoying, 29% do it so they can hear their other device, and 26% do it so they can have a conversation.

A key reason for the lack of attention to TV ads, cited by 39% of respondents, is that they find TV ads irrelevant most of the time and they don't bring value to them. About 31% find the ads too repetitive and 31% complain that there are too many ads; 64% of them said there should not be more than 2 ads during a commercial break. 

In contrast, 71% of these said they would pay more attention if TV ads were better targeted to their interests and 82% of those people said they would pay more attention if ads were more diversified in terms of products/services.

Interestingly 85% of people indicated that they would be willing to share personal information to watch a TV show with no commercials. In terms of the information they would be willing to share, 50% cited age & gender; 50% said an email address; 45% said products/services they’re in market for; 29% a phone number; 29% household income; and 25% home address. Respondents were allowed to mark more than one item they would be willing to share. 

Despite the obvious lack of interest in a lot of advertising, 60% of respondents said they have purchased a product on their phone, computer or tablet after seeing a TV ad for it and 58% said they would use their TV remote to buy a product or get a coupon for a product they liked in a commercial. 

The researchers noted that the problem of engaging consumers with ads opens up a particularly notable opportunity for connected TV players who have the capability of making advertising more relevant through better targeting and better ad experiences. 

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.