Digital advertisements are by no means a new form of marketing, but in the past year, CivicScience has kept a close eye on relevance, to see what’s changed and how Americans are interacting with this form of advertising. 

As the data show, the percentage of Americans who feel digital ads are not at all relevant has increased since this time last year, currently coming in at 70%. 

The correlation between gender and age, as they apply to digital ad relevance, has also changed. Similar to our last report, Gen Z still has the highest percentage of digital ad relevance (those reporting ads are “very relevant” to their interests). And while women are still reporting more relevant ads than their male counterparts, the relevance gap between genders has seen a sharp decrease. 

The Role of Social Media 

Last year, TikTok users were reporting far more digital ad relevance than users of other social media apps. However, relevance for TikTok users has dropped significantly since our last pulse, and Instagram users are not far behind in reported relevancy of digital ads.

Are Ads Getting Less Relevant? 

Perhaps not surprisingly, the likelihood to click on a digital ad has also decreased. Those who reported being “not at all likely” increased from 54% in April 2020 to 56% this year. 

As it turns out, one element that has not played a major role in declining digital ad engagement is the use of ad blockers. Although ad blocker usage on the computer has seen its ups and downs in the last year, 48% of respondents currently use them–the same percentage as this time last year. And the percentage of  those who use ad blockers on their smartphones has decreased by 5% since March 2020. 

When it comes to ad blockers, usage varies by age and device. While 25-54 year olds lead the way with using ad blockers on their smartphones, 18-24 year olds are using ad blockers most often on their computers. 

Ultimately, digital ad relevance has taken a hit in the last year. Despite the fact that Americans may be receiving an increasing number of digital ads, lack of relevance could be continuing to drive down engagement, even as ad blocker usage holds steady or, in some cases, experiences a decline. So, as marketers look to the future of their digital ad campaigns, finding ways to stay relevant could be in the cards, if this form of marketing is going to pay off.