Americans Find Funny Online Ads More Appealing Than The Rest of the World Does

Almost 6 in 10 global adults aged 18-64 prefer online and mobile ads that are clear and straightforward, rather than humorous, according to new data released by Ipsos in October. But Americans, who value storytelling in their ads, apparently want those stories to be funny, at least when they’re online. In contrast to the global average, 56% of Americans surveyed by Ipsos said they prefer their online ads to make them laugh rather than to just give them the facts.

This preference for humor might be because American consumers appear to find online ads “annoying,” and if they’re to be “distracted” by them, they might as well also be humored.

American women skew higher than men in their preference for humor in online and mobile ads (59% vs. 54%). And, the demand for humor decreases as Americans age. For example, 69% of respondents aged 18-35 favored humor over straightforwardness, while just 39% of 50-64-year-olds could say the same.

Humor Is A Luxury

Interestingly, the demand for humor rises with income. Just under half of consumers from low-income households prefer humorous ads to clear and straightforward ads, while 57% and 58% of those from medium- and high-income households prefer those humorous ads.

Those consumers who are more likely to be well heeled (being the chief income earner, employed versus unemployed, business owners and senior executive decision makers) appear to have the luxury of laughter. 59% of chief income earners prefer humorous ads, versus 53% of those who are not the household breadwinner. Similarly, 6 in 10 employed consumers prefer humor versus 51% of the unemployed. Finally, two-thirds of business owners prefer humor versus 55% of those who do not own businesses, and two-thirds of senior executives and decision makers will take humor compared to 54% of those in other work classes.

Nielsen observed in June 2012 that consumers lose their humorous edge in times of economic trouble. Nielsen released data finding that funny ads were 47% more appealing to US consumers than the average ad pre-Recession, but just 33% more appealing during and following the recession. Sentimental ads skewed below average (being 100%) pre-recession at 88%, but reached 107% during and following the recession.

Globally, Ipsos found that Mexicans and Argentinians (74% and 73% respectively) show the strongest preference for clarity and straightforwardness from online and mobile ads, while the Chinese (74%) show the strongest predilection toward humor.

UK Consumers Disclose Most Annoying Ads

The Ipsos survey found that respondents from Great Britain show a slight preference for online ads that are straightforward. But what kinds of ad formats roil these consumers? According to a Respond survey (and as reported by Econsultancy), almost three-quarters of respondents said that video ads that automatically play upon page load are annoying, while pop-ups (69%) and pop-unders (56%) were the next-most annoying.

More than 6 in 10 respondents said that they would be likely to leave a page that had annoying ads, and a similar proportion said they would be unlikely to return to the page.

About The Data: The Ipsos data is based on 12,000 online interviews conducted in September 2012 across 24 countries, with adults aged 18-64. The US data is based on a sample size of 500.

The Respond data is based on a survey of more than 1,000 UK consumers.