Americans Weigh In on What Makes a Successful Ad

An exploration of how platform and ad traits affect their success as well as generational sentiment on new marketing trends and ad aversion.
American Ad Preferences

Key Findings

  • Instagram ads inspired Americans to spend the most, averaging $300 per purchase.
  • Newspaper ads were considered the most trustworthy. Conversely, YouTube ads were voted as being of the worst quality.
  • Americans valued relatability above any other ad characteristic. 

There are more platforms on which consumers can engage with content than ever before, which means there are also more opportunities for businesses to reach potential customers. However, with so many options pertaining to platform type, advert design, and content, it can be difficult to create an effective strategy. 

We surveyed over 1,000 people to get a better understanding of their current sentiments toward the ads they see every day. We asked them about the platforms they use, the purchases they make, the ads they like, and the lengths they go to to avoid ads. Keep reading to find out how Americans feel about the current advertising landscape. 

Location, Location, Location

To begin with, we asked respondents to reflect on the platforms where they encounter ads. Specifically, we wanted to know how an ad’s location can affect consumer perception and interaction levels. To do so, respondents ranked platforms according to several different characteristics and categorized their purchase history accordingly.



Video ads appeared to be the most unlikely to find favor, with respondents voting YouTube and television as having the worst ads. As for those considered most trustworthy, traditional platforms won out over social media, with the top three spots taken by newspapers, magazines, and radio, respectively. 

Instagram was not only the most trustworthy digital platform but also the platform respondents reported buying from the most overall. Instagram also boasted the highest amount spent on individual purchases, with users spending an average of $300. With high levels of trust and conversion, Instagram appears to be a prime platform on which to advertise. Plus, with nearly 1.5 billion users, it is the perfect place for ads to be seen by many eyes.

The Good, the Bad, and the Annoying

After looking at platform impact, we wanted to know the specific characteristics that make the ad itself good or bad. We asked respondents to think about what made them interested in an ad and what turned them off. 



In general, ads were considered most appealing when they were realistic and familiar, with 43% liking relatable ads, 40% appreciating those from brands they already supported, and 21% enjoying when an ad used a well-known song. Often, Americans were repelled by ads that included the opposite, with celebrity endorsements and unrealistic characters being the two most disliked features. 

This trend toward authenticity is hardly surprising, with the American public increasingly demanding inclusivity and diversity from all of the media it consumes—including ads. And this extends beyond the camera, particularly among younger generations who are swayed by company ethics just as much as persuasive advertising. In a world with infinite, instantaneous information, what a business stands for can be just as important as what it produces.

Marketing in the Digital Age

The internet and social media have revolutionized the way companies reach their consumers, but not everyone is appreciative of these new tactics. This section of our study analyzed how different demographics feel about changes in advertising techniques.


Overall, 58% of Americans approved of personalized ads, with Gen Zers the most supportive (81%). Surprisingly, Gen Z was also the generation most likely to believe that their phone was listening to them in order to generate these personalized ads. Experts say it’s likely that apps on your phone listen to what you say to curate ads. But if this is not something you want, there are ways to turn it off.

Generations also differed in their trust of influencers, and once again, younger generations were more approving than the older ones. The development of influencer marketing has been incredibly fast, growing from an industry worth an estimated $1.7 billion in 2016 to $13.8 billion in 2021.

The Metaverse: The Next Frontier?

Just as marketers are becoming familiar with advertising on social media, Americans are moving on to what looks to be the next frontier—the metaverse. Although the technology is still very new, we went ahead and asked respondents some preliminary questions about their expectations for ads in the metaverse.


While there was quite a bit of worry about the hypothetical invasiveness of metaverse ads, half of our respondents were still excited about the potential for this kind of content. Many people got their first exposure to this new style of advertising with Miller Lite’s Meta Lite Bar, which was featured during the NFL’s big game. For businesses on the cutting edge, the possibilities are endless for creating virtual content that both entertains and entices people to engage with their company. 

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

Unfortunately for marketers, as adverts have developed so have the ways for consumers to evade them. The final section of our study looked at the extent to which people go to elude ads. 


The vast majority of respondents found unwanted ads to be a significant annoyance, with 84% saying they regularly switched platforms for this very reason. Furthermore, 69% said they had stopped using a platform altogether due to the ads they endured there. 

Others found ways to skip the ads in order to continue using their favorite sites. Over half of respondents said they used some type of ad blocker. And while baby boomers were the generation least likely to use a blocker, an unexpected 45% of them had, while a slightly smaller overall percentage said they paid for premium subscriptions to avoid ads. Gen Zers reported the highest monthly cost for such services at $71, while Gen Xers reported the lowest ($43).

Keeping Up With the Times

Understanding consumer preferences is the first step to leveling up your marketing performance. In our analysis, we found the platform on which an ad is seen can influence consumer perception. Americans prefer relatable ads over those that are idealistic, and younger generations are more open to personalization and influencers. Nonetheless, many Americans, especially younger generations, are also intent on not seeing ads at all.

Keeping up with the constantly changing requirements for making a successful ad can be overwhelming. Using an automated data analysis tool can help you track what is working for your company and what isn’t. Unsupervised’s analytics platform uses AI to automate both data prep and analysis. Instead of muddling through raw data, users quickly receive easy-to-understand insights, allowing them to make the best marketing decisions for their business.


Methodology and Limitations

We surveyed 1,005 Americans about their ad preferences and habits. This sample included 251 baby boomers, 251 Gen Xers, 250 millennials, and 253 Gen Zers. When divided by gender, respondents included 546 men, 452 women, and seven identifying as nonbinary. Respondents were required to answer an attention-check question to prove they were taking the survey seriously. Outliers were removed from free-response questions. There are some limitations to surveys relying on self-reported data, such as exaggeration, telescoping, and selective memory.

Fair Use Statement

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