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Bad Social Ads Your Audience Doesn’t Want to See Anymore

Our species can’t agree on much. We are constantly fighting over politics, religion, and whether milk goes before or after the cereal pour. But there is one topic that the general public bands together to unanimously agree on – an annoyance of bad social media ads. Every single one of us has at some point complained about how creepy, repetitive, persistent, irrelevant or downright crappy a certain ad is. That opinion will spread and taint your feelings toward the entire brand and will have lasting effects on how a viewer will react to that brand henceforth. That’s a lot of pressure to put on one campaign.  

However, this doesn’t mean it’s time to throw in the flag, pack up your social strategy docs and head home. The operative word in this unanimous annoyance is ‘bad’ social media ads. Quality, well-thought-out campaigns are still an important and beneficial aspect of a digital marketing strategy. There is still money to be made and audiences to attract on social media, just check out these 2020 social media stats. But, if you are not spending time and energy on an updated strategy, don’t just ‘soldier on’ with what has always been done. Our audiences are putting up with it less and less.  

For example, look at the culture of Reddit. Reddit is notoriously skeptical of any sales pitches on this platform, good or bad. But if you aren’t trying to make your ads creative and in line with the Reddit voice, Redditers will tear your brand apart in the comments, or at the very least completely ignore it. There are even several subreddits with thousands of followers dedicated to ridiculing bad ads.  

Not interested in being the butt of the joke? It’s time to understand what your audience doesn’t want to see, along with what they do. 

Disingenuous ads  

See: phony, inaccurate, suspicious, or exaggerating ads. These are the ads giving marketers a bad name and ruining the reputation of advertising altogether. We wrote a piece on the rise of phony ads, and how they negatively affect the entire marketing industry, whether you engage in them or not.    

In our blog, we mention how an ad doesn’t need to be wildly inaccurate to fall under this category. Any amount of bending the truth or exaggerating value will ultimately come back to bite you.   

For example, there was a time when it was completely normal to say something definitive such as “Come try the #1 coffee in Portland” without much consequence. Now, that kind of copy better have the rating platform receipts to prove it.   


Or, say you are advertising a new discount of special. If you use the copy “buy one get one free” but then if a customer tries to opt into the special, they find out it’s only if you buy a specific color or only one type of product. Then we find out it’s only relevant for new customers. Finally, it was only available for 7 minutes and it’s now expired. These bait-and-switch tactics, no matter how minor, will leave an impression.   

None of us think that we run disingenuous ads. But it’s worth going over your banners, ad copy, UVPs and CTAs to make sure each word accurately represents the offer, product, and overall brand.  

Low-quality ads  

We all have the skills to tell a high-quality ad from a low-quality ad. You don’t need a marketing degree to see when a team has spent time and energy in a campaign, or when a company just put an ad our for the sake of being present.   

Low-quality ads may use unaltered single image stock photos, with no branding. They may have mistakes like typos, bad grammar, over casual language, or (heaven forbid) broken links. There may be obscure CTAs or no real direction or pathway on which they are sending viewers. At their core, these ads don’t offer concrete information, entertainment or value.

If you feel like you are just taking your ads money and throwing it into a black hole, maybe it’s time to turn inward. Ask yourself “are my ads worth reacting to? Would I be happy to see this on my feed?” If you can’t name one concrete way your ads benefit your audience, it’s time to go back to the drawing board with your ad offerings.   

Crazy general ads  

Related to the quality of your ads, your message as much as your copy needs to be valuable in some way. Whether you are conveying the UVP of the product, communication a discount opportunity, or sharing customer stories and reviews, each ad needs to offer some level of value.   

A general “hi, we are a company buys stuff from us!” message won’t cut it and won’t delight or engage your customers. Make sure you can answer the question “what do I want my viewers to know after seeing this ad?” When you can answer that, then (and only then) are you ready to start on the copy and design of your ad.  

Irrelevant ads  

To avoid annoying or creeping out your viewers, accurate targeting can be the key deal-breaker. And this doesn’t just come down to who you’re targeting, but when how and where you’re targeting.   

We’ve all gotten a similar version of this text that I received from my brother just this morning:  

“you sent me that link to the Frozen 2 movie and 2 seconds later I got like 3 Disney+ ads on IG. That is so creepy.”  

While retargeting is proven to be productive, there is a fine line between helpful and creepy. Helpful is setting retargeting campaigns to gently remind people they were interested in a certain product or service. Creepy is creating an ad for the second they enter the target segment and not setting a maximum amount of times a viewer can see the ad per day.   

At the other end of the spectrum, we have overly broad targeting that reaches irrelevant audience segments with a message that doesn’t resonate. Not only can this annoy these viewers with ads they would never react to, but also you waste your budget on viewers who won’t convert. It’s a lose-lose situation.  

So, it turns out there are a lot of ways to annoy and creep out our audiences. How can we create ads that delight and convert?  

The hard truth is there isn’t a magic formula. A strategy that worked for one company won’t always work for another. A strategy that worked for a company at one company won’t even be guaranteed to work again.   

The main thing we can count on with confidence is that ads with quality design, thought-out copy, and a clear vision for what they hope to accomplish have a much better chance of prevailing.   

Ready to create a successful paid social strategy for your company? Reach out to the Dowitcher team for consulting! 

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