How Consumers Really Feel About Mobile Marketing and Advertising

Nov 29, 2019

Alexandra Matthews

There’s plenty of content and research papers that highlight the shifting landscape of the digital advertising industry. 

From ad spend to formats to fraud, research almost always focuses on insider issues as they pertain to us, the professionals. 

All very useful. But in the new era of privacy awareness and digital integrity, consumer attitudes towards mobile advertising are changing just as fast, if not faster, than the industry itself. 

If the consumer really is the most important constituent in all our business and marketing activity, don’t we need to get a better understanding of how they feel about our industry, and all the advertising they’re subject too on their mobile devices? 

Yes! We definitely do. 

Therefore, to get a better understanding of the shifting consumer mindset, we conducted the world’s largest research piece of its kind. 

‘The Reality Report’ 2019 surveyed 287,000 consumers from around the world about their attitudes towards mobile marketing, advertising, privacy and data. 


In this blog specifically, we’re going to uncover how consumers really feel about mobile marketing and advertising.

Question #1:

“Targeted marketing messages that are designed to show products or services that appeal to me are…?”

Key Finding: A combined 90% of all respondents agree that targeted advertising is ‘annoying’.

The long-held promise of mobile marketing is to leave behind the spray-and-pray tactics of the past and deliver ads and messages aligned to what consumers really want. Unfortunately, that promise isn’t being delivered.

The global survey results reveal that 9 out of 10 consumers still consider targeted mobile marketing to be categorically ‘annoying’. Despite the best efforts of marketers, consumers generally still don’t feel they receive any value from targeted ads; with only 1 in 10 deeming them to be exclusively ‘useful’ (and not annoying)

To overcome this, consumers need to make an informed choice regarding the data they share and the marketing experience they receive. When consumers choose to share their data in exchange for free content, the usefulness of ads will be recognized above their annoyance based on the cognitive bias known as choice-supportive. This is when a person post-rationalizes a decision, ascribing positive attributes to the outcome, to justify it to themselves.

Question #2:

“What is the most annoying part of using your mobile device every day?”

Key Finding: Irrelevant marketing messages cause more frustration than slow apps and websites.

More than half of all consumers said that irrelevant marketing messages are the single most annoying part of using their mobile devices every day. Far outweighing the frustration caused by slow apps and websites. 

A lot of work goes into increasing the speed and overall user experience of apps and websites. People are busy, they have endless options on mobile, and a slow app or website can deter them temporarily, or even repel them permanently from your product. So speed and experience are considered to be a business priority. 

But no matter the reactivity or intuitiveness of your app or website; from a consumer perspective, irrelevant ads are almost twice as annoying as a poor experience.

Question #3:

“How would you prefer to receive marketing messages?”

Key Finding: Consumers prefer mobile ads and email over phone alerts.

There is no shortage of channels available for marketers to attract, reach and engage consumers. Each channel is typically selected based on the results it generates dependent on business objectives, campaign goals or persona dynamics. 

Regardless of the effectiveness of each channel, consumers themselves hold an opinion as to how they prefer to receive marketing messages. 

And from a macro perspective, it’s important for marketers to be aware of them. Somewhat surprisingly, at a global level, consumers have no dominant preference towards email or mobile ads, with both channels receiving exactly 41% of the total vote. Phone alerts, such as push notifications and texts, were the least popular method amongst respondents. Just 18% stated that they preferred receiving marketing messages this way.

Question #4:

“Annoying, intrusive or irrelevant marketing messages give me a  poor opinion of the website or app that hosts them.”

Key Finding: Half of your business is at risk with irrelevant advertising.

Consumers are spoilt for choice when it comes to apps and websites on mobile. With infinite options available, there’s far more supply than there is demand. And as anyone in publishing can attest, it’s not easy to gain a commercial foothold in such a competitive space.

As such, most apps and websites offer content for ‘free,’ and design a business model that either in part or exclusively relies on advertising. For this model to work, publishers need a user base to whom advertisers can market to.

Quality content and user experience play a big part in ensuring these users are engaged. And when a consumer visits an app or a website for free, the advertising they are subject to forms a fundamental part of both the content and the experience they associate with the publisher. It stands to reason therefore, that 52% of consumers agree that irrelevant or annoying advertising gives them a poor opinion of the app or website that hosts them.

Question #5:

“The number of  irrelevant marketing messages shown to me on mobile has…?”

Key Finding: Nearly 1 in 2 consumers find the problem with advertising to be worsening.

Mobile advertising spend is expected to exceed all traditional media types combined by 2020. Does this mean the volume of campaigns that consumers are exposed to will only increase over time? Probably not. But if their relevance doesn’t improve, all results from previous questions will not either; consumers will continue to be disappointed. 

The global survey results reveal that a combined 84% of consumers feel that the number of marketing messages shown to them that they deem ‘irrelevant’ has either increased or at least stayed the same, in their view.

Despite promises of AI revolutions, technology wars and feature battles from tech giants; the numbers suggest that marketers have their work cut out to counter any negative perceptions amongst users, and prove that mobile marketing can offer users real value in exchange for their data.

Want to learn more?

Unless we understand exactly how real people – our existing customers, our potential customers – feel about mobile advertising and the way their data is used, our marketing efforts could actually be damaging our relationship with consumers.

If you want to dig deeper you can learn more by watching my talk at Advertising Week NY, where I shared the top three macro conclusions from The Reality Report, and had an in depth fireside chat about the findings. 

View the full presentation here, or take a deep dive through all 35 pages to see breakdowns per country, age group and sex, you can get your free copy of the full report here. 

If you’d like to continue reading up on report, check out the multiple publications where the findings were featured, including AdAge, The Financial Times and  MarTech Advisor.

Max Pepe, VP Marketing