The growth of online advertising is showing no signs of slowing down after a record year of digital advertising revenue that surpassed television ad spend in 2017. According to eMarketer’s 2018 Digital Ad Spending Benchmarks, investment in digital ads is on track to hit over $107 billion by the end of 2018. But does this rise in spending mean consumers are more engaged? Are digital ads more effective in driving awareness, ROI and conversion among target consumers?

The answer depends on who you ask. For many consumers, website banners, pre-roll videos and sponsored posts are considered intrusive and negatively impact their online experience. In fact, a 2018 survey by Instart Logic and Propeller Insights found that 51 percent of respondents believe that websites should host fewer ads, 57 percent said pop-up ads that obstruct content were a pet peeve and 50 percent were irritated by ads that take up the entire screen.

For major brands like Procter & Gamble and Unilever, transparency issues in the digital ad landscape like viewability, fraud/bots, brand safety and inaccurate measurement have led to significant cuts in digital marketing investments. Because of these issues, brands and digital buyers are losing opportunities to engage with their target consumers in a meaningful way.

Consumers and brand marketers need a solution that soothes digital pain points and enables advertising to exist in an environment where they are relevant and unobtrusive. A digital strategy that connects all parts of the marketing funnel and seamlessly positions brands in areas of high receptivity and dwell time. This month, ZOOM Media will introduce Digital Engaged via its network of over 3,600 health clubs in 191 DMAs across the U.S.

The Generation Active Network, powered by ZOOM, is the exclusive in-gym music and video content provider for America’s largest health club chains and reaches over 26 million members. The network also features fashion, weather, sports, nutrition tips and pertinent gym programming in hundreds of 24 Hour Fitness, LA Fitness, Planet Fitness and Gold’s Gyms around the country. Digital Engaged enables brands to connect with consumers in a way that traditional online media can’t.

Longer dwell times lead to higher frequency and better viewability

As measured by The Nielsen Company, members at ZOOM clubs spend an average of 78 minutes per visit from the time they enter to when they leave the gym. That’s more than popular web apps like Facebook, Instagram and Snap Chat per day. The Generation Active Network is integral to the overall gym experience. Music videos and audio entertain, fitness and nutrition content educate and on-target ads drive brand awareness.

As proven in a 2018 Generation Active survey, 82 percent of members say they watch The Generation Active Network and 88 percent say they have seen or heard ads on the network. Combined with post-campaign measurement from brands that ran video ads on the network from 2016 to 2017, overall average ad recall stands at an impressive 65.1 percent.

Mindset impacts relevance and receptivity

 People who go to the gym are committed to working out because it helps improve their mental state and relieve stress. They’re focused on self-improvement and a clear majority feel energized, happy and more productive during or after working out. In a 2018 Digital Mindset Study by Kantar Millward Brown, researchers found that when people are in active mindsets, such as investing in themselves, they have the highest ad recall and favorability scores. This positive mood can also be attributed to over 70 percent of The Generation Active audience reporting that ads they’ve seen are pertinent to them, while only 26 percent of social media users say that the ads they come across are relevant.

Passive versus active engagement

When asked if they had to give up either working out or their favorite social media platform for the rest of their lives, 95 percent of Generation Active said they would give up social media. Of this group, 67 percent were millennials. This means that exercise is more essential to their lives and the gym environment is an important stop on the customer journey. While social media and web-surfing can sometimes be a passive act, exercise is a focused and intentional activity that many quality consumers engage in.

Brands are embracing non-traditional digital advertising

 Over 100 million Americans exercise two or more times per week and the number is growing. The internet provides advertisers a convenient network to reach consumers with many platforms, from Google to Facebook that offer targeted campaigns to reach a desired group of people. But many times, ad buys wind up below the fold, too inconspicuous for people to notice or too intrusive for viewers to care. Making matters worse, internet users are now actively ignoring the ads they encounter online. Overall, online digital advertising isn’t all bad because it offers scale and efficiencies that other media formats are unable to. But, as evidenced by the growing interest in health and fitness across the U.S., digital buyers can now engage this powerful audience at the right time, in the right place with digital assets viewed in real life.