Apparently people hate the ads they receive online. Or rather, they hate when advertisers use their personal data to send ads. Sure, it’s kind of creepy, but there’s an opportunity here for both consumers and advertisers.

For consumers? The power is in your hands. You can literally tailor your ad experience to be exactly what you want and nothing you don’t want.

For advertisers? You can reach the people you want, and avoid the rest, all while saving your ad spend by listening to feedback from the consumers who don’t want to buy from you, and who aren’t interested in being persuaded otherwise.

The trick is knowing how to do it.

Because when it works, online advertising can be great. I love most of the ads I get. I’m currently shopping for a mattress, a suitcase, and a new sofa. My ads are doing all this shopping for me.

Instagram and Google also know that I like cats, sleeping, and sales — so I get ads for bedding, cat paraphernalia, and clearance display ad sets for brands I love. Need proof? Here’s some of my favorite ads in the last 30 days. 

 

How do you make it work for you? Before we talk about what advertisers should know, let’s start with the people the ads are intended to reach.

Consumers: How to Interact With Your Ads

Consumers have two options for leaving negative ad feedback: You can hide them, or report them.

Hiding ads means, “This is an okay ad, just not relevant to my interests.” Reporting an ad means, “This is inappropriate/offensive either to me or to others.”

You can also interact positively with ads, and while the options vary by platform, the key takeaway is that your ad experience will get better and better over time. So here’s how you can interact with ads on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google.

Instagram

Here’s an Instagram ad I recently hid. To hide an ad on Instagram, just click the three dots in the upper right corner. From there, you can either hide or report it.

After you hide it, you’ll have the option to give feedback. But, if you like the ad, you can like, share, shop, or follow the brand.

Warning: You will get similar ads if you do this. This is useful if you’re shopping for something, but not useful if you just want to make one purchase and don’t need more ads.

And here’s an Instagram ad I finally reported after hiding it, and other ads from this retailer, several times. 

Reporting an ad is more serious, and requires a few steps depending on which option you pick. For this one, I just selected, “I find it offensive” and I didn’t have to do anything after that. If you select some of the other options though, you’ll have to give Instagram more information so they can take the appropriate steps. 

Twitter

Here’s a Twitter ad I hid because the fastest way to get negative ad feedback from me is to insert diet culture propaganda into my timeline. 

To interact with ads on Twitter, just select the dropdown arrow on the upper right hand side and choose your reason, or choose to block the advertiser altogether. If you like the ad, you can also copy the link to share it, embed it elsewhere, or add it to your Moments.

Facebook

Here’s an ad I hid for a brand that I’d previously liked and followed on Instagram. I saw their ad, did some shopping, followed them, and later decided I wasn’t interested. I hid the ad, and they took my feedback to heart. I never saw another ad again.

To interact with Facebook ads, click the dots in the upper right corner and choose from the available options pictured below. If you like the ad, you can save it, create a similar ad, turn on notifications, let them know it’s useful, or embed it elsewhere.

LinkedIn

To interact with LinkedIn ads, click the three buttons in the right corner, and then give your reason. In this case, you can choose to improve your feed, where LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to tell them what you’re interested in.

Google

Finally, Google. They should be the best at this right? Wrong. I actually find Google’s ads the most difficult to interact with.

First of all, you don’t have the option to hide every Google ad (they don’t offer clear answers about why that is, by the way). You now know how much I hate diet culture propaganda, so you can imagine how quickly I tried to hide this one.

I love Oprah, but hate Weight Watchers. The only option here is to click that microscopic button in the upper right corner, which leads to a useless page about why Google shows you the ads they show you.

 From this screen, you can elect to stop seeing this ad, but I had to navigate away from YouTube (where the ad appeared) in order to do this.

On a good day, you do have the option to hide ads on the Google Display Network. 

For ads you can hide, you have to click on the microscopic “X” in the upper right side. This is a slippery slope, however, because it’s terribly small and also transparent. If you miss, you’ll wind up charging AARP for your click, and opening yourself up to even more irrelevant advertising.

Luckily, I’m skilled in clicking the tiny X, but Google doesn’t give you the  option to say why you closed it. You can only report it, or visit the page shown above with the Google’s Ad-splaining. 

But Why Is Google So Difficult?

Did you notice how easy it was to click the three buttons and hide or interact ads directly on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn — and how difficult it was for Google? Google has entire help center articles on how to interact with ads, and it’s not very straightforward.

Here’s how to remove unwanted ads. And here’s how you can opt out of seeing personalized ads. You can also personalize your ad preferences. 

Advertisers: How to Listen to Consumer Feedback

Consumers have a lot of power, but so do advertisers. Here’s how to harness advertising power and machine learning to get the most out of your ad campaigns and avoid irritating your potential customers.

  • Take time to evaluate ad performance and negative feedback. The help centers for Facebook/Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google all offer very useful information for how advertisers can see and understand their negative feedback. Also, if you notice your ads are performing very poorly and have a lot of impressions but very low click-through, that might be a sign that you’re reaching the wrong people.  
  • Take the feedback seriously or risk damaging your brand image. Remember the Saturday Morning Pancakes ad I finally had to report? You don’t want to be in that position. If consumers give negative feedback, listen to them and take corrective action as quickly as possible. If some consumers aren’t interested in your ads, that’s okay. Just find the consumers who are.
  • Use the targeting options to your advantage. More isn’t better. More impressions, more clicks, more interactions — it doesn’t necessarily mean anything if the wrong people are seeing on your ads, or clicking on them by accident when trying to hide them. Don’t rush to launch a campaign unless you are very certain of your targeting demographics, and be sure to evaluate your results on a monthly basis. 

If you’re running digital ads but you’re not evaluating your ad performance and listening to consumer feedback, you certainly should be. As advertisers, it’s your responsibility. For consumers, interacting with ads will level-up your online ad experience, and in no time, you too will be letting Instagram choose your new sofa.