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How online advertising can harm your brand: Ubereats case study

Reading time
15 minutes

It has been about 6 months that I keep seeing the same ad again and again when I watch videos on Youtube.

This is an ad for Ubereats. You can watch the short version here:

To be honest, it is driving me nuts…

This isn’t the only ad they show on Youtube but this is the most redundant one.

If you live in Taiwan and don’t have Ubereats app installed on your phone, you probably saw this ad several times already.

To give you a bit of context, I am digital marketer at Pineapple Web and I live in Taiwan. I don’t speak Chinese fluently. I have nothing against seeing ads on the internet as far as this is not annoying the user. Thanks to online ads, we have access to massive amounts of free content.

But well, Ubereats ads on Youtube are just harassing by their frequency.

Since I am persecuted by Ubereats advertising campaigns, I decided that I’ll never order food from their platform and I always discourage friends and family to do so.

But before getting to that point, I’ve been looking at my options to stop seeing this specific advertisement.

How online advertising can harm your brand: Ubereats case study

“Stop seeing this ad” button on Youtube

While watching an ad, you can notify Youtube that you don’t wish to watch this ad anymore because it is inappropriate, irrelevant, or repetitive.

I notified Youtube every time I saw that ad but it didn’t make any difference. This ad kept popping up again and again.

As a general rule, Youtube takes in consideration user’s notifications and stops serving the concerned advertisement.

In my case, it didn’t work at all.

A potential explanation is that I am located in Taiwan but my language is set to English. Most of the advertisers targeting Taiwan only target users who speak Chinese.

Therefore, Youtube may not have many ads to show me based on my interests, my languages, as well as my location.

As a consequence, they disregard my request to “stop seeing this ad”.

It would mean that Youtube prefers to make a few dollars and harass users rather than showing ads less often until new one are available.

In the other hand, advertisers generally target users who speak the language of the advertisement. It sounds logical, but it seems like Ubereats targets Taiwan location regardless of viewer’s language even if their ad is in Chinese only.

Still, this is a simple setting you can activate when setting-up your campaign:

As a digital marketer, I think it doesn’t make sense to advertise on users who don’t speak the language of your advertisement.

If they don’t wish to restrict the language targeting, advertisers should at least bring some small adjustments to their ads before they show it to a large audience.

I understand Ubereats doesn’t make a specific advertisement for non-Chinese speaking people living in Taiwan. The market is too small.

But they could at least serve a version of their advertisement that includes English subtitles for the non-Chinese speakers targeting.

Ad blocker extensions

I use an Adblocker extension on my desktop devices and it works perfectly. I am not seeing ads while watching videos on Youtube.

This is not true when it comes to mobile devices, especially when you watch videos from Youtube App.

There are no free, easy to set up and 100% working ad blocker apps for mobile devices.

Moreover, you can’t choose to stop seeing a specific ad with an Adblocker. You can only enable/disable ads on a specific URL. This applies to all ads on this URL.

Youtube premium offer

Recently, Youtube increased how often ads are served to users on its platform, mainly on short videos (less than 8 minutes).

My generation used to watch Youtube without in-stream advertisements. With the recent ad frequency increase, many users are getting upset and reduce their usage of the platform.

Therefore, Youtube launched a premium offer that includes removing all ads from the platform on the grounds that user experience was worsening.

The pricing is fair (NTD 179/month) and the offer works both on desktop and mobile devices.

But again, my intention isn’t to get rid of all ads on the platform, but only the one that are too repetitive and/or harassing.

What could Ubereats do to avoid annoying users with its ads?

We have been talking about the responsibility of the advertising network to avoid pushing users in such a situation.

But actually the advertiser has a very simple way to avoid that. It is called frequency capping. I am pretty sure Ubereats Taiwan knows about that but I believe their strategy is to push the same information again and again until the viewer gives up and install the app.

In the online advertising industry, there is something called “remarketing”. It could look like this is what Ubereats is trying to achieve.

Remarketing is the practice of targeting users that interacted with a previous campaign to define the audience of an upcoming campaign. It generally increases the ROI of your campaigns as far as it complies with the best practices of remarketing.

Normally, the second ad you expose viewers to should be different than the first one. But Ubereats ads on Youtube don’t comply with a typical remarketing campaign strategy because they keep showing me the exact same advertisement.

The problem here is that they didn’t set any frequency capping. Frequency capping is often overlooked or ignored by advertisers although this is an important campaign setting option.

Frequency is the number of times a user sees ads in video campaign over a given period of time. Therefore, frequency capping is the action of limiting the number of times a user is exposed to your ad per day, week or month.

It can be set in the advertising campaign control panel, in the additional setting menu:

A frequency cap will ensure you don’t bother your audience to the point they feel frustrated with your brand.

Frequency capping is even more important when you use TrueView in-stream ads on Youtube because the user is forced to view your ads for 5 seconds before he can skip it and finally watch what he intended to watch.

I recommend setting the frequency capping on Youtube TrueView in-stream ads to a maximum of 1 view per user per day.

When you think about it, this is insane: Ubereats is currently paying to upset potential customers.

And I am not the only one. You can check the comments below the video at the top of the page. There’s plenty of complaints from users.


Online advertising is an amazing tool for companies wanting to reach a targeted audience online.

Setting-up an advertising campaign on Google or Facebook network is fairly easy.

Building an advertising strategy, setting-up a relevant targeting, and optimizing campaigns is complicated.

If you wish to get the most results out of your budget, you should work with a PPC agency to handle your digital marketing strategy. An advertising agency will charge you 10% to 20% of your monthly advertising budget but they will improve your ads performance. In many cases, the performance increase will cover the agency fee.

We saw in that case study that wrongdoing in online advertising can even lead to viewer’s frustration and ultimately, harm your business.

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