Four ways to stop that one ad you see repeatedly in streaming video
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Four ways to stop that one ad you see repeatedly in streaming video

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For months, I have been haunted by pulverized plant powder.

Over and over again when I watch YouTube, I see an advertisement encouraging me to gulp down a powdered nutrition mix.

The first couple of times I saw the ad, I was mildly curious. Now I’m just exasperated.

You, too, might know the scourge of ad repetition on YouTube or streaming services such as Hulu or Tubi.

Seeing the same ad over and over has been an issue for a long time, especially in streaming video, and it’s not getting better.

In a recently released research study, 87 percent of respondents said they saw too much of the same ad on streaming services at least some of the time.

“The massive over-frequency of ads on streaming services is a big problem, it is getting worse, and it is preventable,” said Dave Morgan, CEO of Simulmedia, which helps companies buy streaming video ads.

I’ll explain why your exhausted eyeballs are exposed to that same ad on blast and what you can do to MAKE IT STOP.

Those repeated streaming ads (usually) aren’t on purpose

Specialists in advertising and online video said there are two fundamental reasons behind repeated streaming video ads.

First, advertisers are trying to use streaming in the ways they use Facebook ads and it’s not working.

Let’s say a car company wants to show its minivan ad 200,000 times targeted to men in California with kids. There might be millions of people who are right for that ad on popular apps like Facebook or the vast sea of websites.

But on a streaming video service, the potential pool is smaller. (For comparison, Facebook and its Messenger app have about 200 million daily users in the United States and Canada. The most watched paid streaming service, Netflix, has about 75 million subscribers in those countries.)

That means the same relatively small number of California dads might see that minivan streaming ad repeatedly, said Ross Benes, a senior analyst for the research firm Insider Intelligence.

A second underlying problem is there are so many companies involved in selling streaming ads that it’s hard for them to keep track of what ads you’ve already seen.

Many streaming services put limits on the number of times you see the same ad. But if you’re watching the Pluto TV streaming service on your internet-connected “smart” TV, the same ad might be blasted out by Pluto, the smart TV company and automated ad-selling middlemen.

Each party doesn’t necessarily share that you’ve seen that ad before, said Brian Wieser, a longtime advertising industry executive who is now the principal of strategic consulting firm Madison and Wall.

Seeing the same ad over and over isn’t a great experience for you nor for the companies pitching you.

People who saw the same commercial six times during a streaming binge tended to remember the company behind the ad. But they also were more likely to find the ad “annoying” and lost interest in buying the company’s product, according to research from advertising firms Magna and Nexxen.

The cheapskate's guide to digital entertainment

Four ways you can limit ad repeats

When you see that one commercial again and again, complain on social media or directly to the streaming service. (Try searching online for the name of the streaming service plus “contact support.“)

Morgan said that streaming services are worried more than ever about people quitting, and they notice when you vent about repeat ads.

“If people switch services because of bad ads, the services will fix that,” Morgan said.

Everyone is angry about streaming right now

Second, Benes suggested mixing up the streaming services you use.

If you hop from Hulu to Peacock to Tubi, you will probably spread out the types of ads you see. “Three different ads annoying you a little bit are better than one ad annoying you a ton,” he said.

Third, if you can afford it, you can pay more for a subscription without commercials on services like Netflix, Max (formerly called HBO Max), Disney Plus, Hulu and Peacock.

Other streaming services only give you the option to watch free with ads, including the Freevee streaming app from Amazon, Tubi, Pluto TV and the Roku Channel.

(Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post. Interim CEO Patty Stonesifer sits on Amazon’s board.)

Fourth, try adjusting your settings.

Most smart TVs and streaming TV gadgets like those from Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV collect information on your viewing habits, partly to target ads. Consumer Reports has a guide to turning off the personalized data-collection setting on popular smart TV brands.

Changing your TV settings might not stop repeat ads, Benes said. (When we spoke, Benes complained that he’s seen one Amazon Prime ad a bunch of times.)

On YouTube’s phone app, if you’re annoyed by repeated viewings of the same ad, tap on the three vertical dots to the right side of the video ad.

You’ll be directed to “My Ad Center.” There, choose the option for “Block ad,” and you won’t see that ad on YouTube again as long as you’re logged into your account. You still might see other ads from the same company.

There was a mini fury on Monday over a policy change from Zoom Video.

An update to the company’s terms of service appeared to give Zoom the right to use audio, video and chat transcripts from your video meetings to coach the company’s artificial intelligence software.

There are three things you need to know about Zoom’s policy update.

First, Zoom’s change only applies to organizations that use a new AI-powered feature for tasks like generating transcripts of Zoom meetings you missed. Most of you aren’t using a version of Zoom with this AI feature.

If your workplace is using AI-powered Zoom, the company clarified that the people who oversee the Zoom account can turn off the data sharing with Zoom’s AI systems. That’s a win!

Second, it’s likely that most digital companies are already using your information to train their AI – whether they say so explicitly or not in their terms of service. And unfortunately there is not much you can do about it.

Almost entirely without your true consent, the photos you have posted online and words from your personal website or Reddit posts have been used to develop AI such as ChatGPT. It’s a good bet that alternatives to Zoom including Google Meet are already training their AI with pieces of you.

The third lesson is that companies are terrible at explaining what they do with your personal information and for what purpose.

You might be okay with Google using data from your Gmail or websites you visit to train its AI systems to stop spam and scams from reaching your inbox. You might be okay with Netflix using data on what you watch to tune its AI-recommended videos. But most companies don’t usually give you a clear, explicit choice.

My colleague Tatum Hunter made a TikTok about Zoom’s AI-related policy change, which she compared to a stranger flicking your eyeball. You’re welcome.

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