David Blecken
May 26, 2016

Advertisers: Japanese consumers really want you out of the frame

A survey by Unruly finds Japanese consumers to be the most likely in the world to use ad blocking.

Advertisers: Japanese consumers really want you out of the frame

TOKYO - 94 percent of those canvassed in Japan as part of Unruly’s Future Video Survey said they would consider using ad-blocking software. That compares with 93 percent globally and 88 percent in Southeast Asia.

Two-thirds of Japanese respondents also said they were put off a brand when forced them into watching pre-roll advertising, compared to 45 percent in Southeast Asia. There is some hope though: one third of respondents said they found ads that follow them online helpful—more than in any other market.

The study was conducted in August 2015 and involved 3,200 people globally, including 1,200 from Asia-Pacific: 400 from Japan, 400 from Australia, and 400 from Southeast Asia.

Haruyo Kagawa, Japan country manager for Unruly, said the study highlighted some “huge challenges facing the ad industry”. In a statement, Unruly points to a statistic from Adobe/Page Fair that says ad blocking is predicted to shave US$41.4 billion from the global economy this year.

TV hangover

Kagawa said most brands still fail to adopt a non-invasive approach to advertising—“a hangover from TV”. It’s no surprise, then, that so many people are inclined to block out unsolicited messaging.

The solution is quite simple, Kagawa said: opt for “polite advertising, polite page loading, respectful ad formats, better ads in the first place—content that’s worth watching”.

Of course, creating content people actually want to watch remains extremely difficult for advertisers as attention spans continue to shorten. With this in mind, Unruly also launched its ‘APAC Future Video Manifesto’ in Japan with the aim of guiding advertisers’ thinking. Its recommendations include:

  • Setting clear goals before creating anything
  • Being self-aware and not insulting people’s intelligence
  • Connecting emotionally
  • Making content relevant to individuals’ interests
  • Giving people a reason to share that content
  • Avoiding interruption
  • Testing and modifying as a campaign is underway

That all makes sense, but where does a brand that’s stuck in a TV mindset even begin? Kagawa said it should start by understanding that the purpose of advertising has changed from simply informing people about a product or service to engaging them. 

That requires a big shift in Japan, where most brands still take a literal, product-oriented approach and are only just coming to terms with the idea of interacting on social media. A “content audit” to break down how activities are meeting goals would help, Kagawa said.

Be upfront

Kagawa noted that being less interruptive doesn’t mean removing branding or advertising. Studies Unruly has conducted show overt branding does not reduce content sharing or emotional connection, Kagawa said. Millennials are especially likely to share branded content as long as it is engaging and relevant.

“Consumers are far more irritated by brand dishonesty,” she said. “They would rather brands were upfront about selling to them. Japanese consumers are actually the most likely to like seeing online ads if they feel the product or service is relevant."

If brands are serious about countering ad blocking, being more considerate should not be hard. Giving people control over video advertising is an obvious place to start. Half of Japanese respondents and 62 percent of global respondents said they would welcome this.

"Brands need to think about the impact of their advertising on the user experience," Kagawa said. "By using ad formats that are non-invasive and opt-in, brands can put the consumer back in control. This is particularly relevant to mobile advertising, where the user experience is for the most part dire.”


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