Study: Tech Users Want More Control, Fewer Ads

Most viewers still aren’t keen on advertising, and marketers will have to relinquish more control if they want to cater to individual tastes, according to a new study of tech- owning consumers released last week by The Media Kitchen and InsightExpress. But the findings also offer good news for advertisers: While about 40 percent of respondents said they avoid advertising of any kind, a sizable majority would welcome “opt-in” ads.

The survey, completed in mid-October, focused on the mind-sets of 500 Internet users who have at least two of the most popular high-tech devices or services: high-speed Internet; digital TV programming; a personal digital assistant, such as a Blackberry; a personal video recorder; an MP3 player; satellite radio; or a cell phone with online capability. Titled “Control and the Consumer,” the study sought to gauge the attitudes these devices have engendered toward traditional marketing methods.

“As people choose devices for the purpose of gaining more control over content, it’s going to be harder … for advertisers to reach consumers on a mass level,” said Doug Adams, director of marketing at Stamford, Conn.-based research firm InsightExpress.

Respondents were most resistant to ads on products used to improve productivity, such as PDAs and cell phones. Fifty-one percent said they find commercial messages on PDAs “offensive.” More than two out of five (44 percent) felt the same about ads on Internet-enabled cell phones. But 41 percent of MP3 owners also would find ads “offensive.” By contrast, 31 percent of respondents were offended by ads on PVRs, 27 percent by ads on satellite radio and 14 percent by ads on digital TV.

Moreover, these consumers would be more receptive to ads if they could choose what types of messages to view (44 percent) or if the ads included a price discount (38 percent).

“The study proves that not all impressions are created equal, and that reach and frequency are starting to give over to depth and duration,” said Paul Woolmington, chairman and CEO of Media Kitchen, a New York independent.

Despite the success of campaigns such as BMW’s Internet Films series, which relied on users opting-in to view them, only 13 percent of respondents said they would appreciate an ad that “was produced … like a short movie.”

The problem with such initiatives is that they treat the Internet as a “distribution channel” for commercials but do not engage people online in a meaningful way, said Wenda Harris Millard, chief of media sales at Yahoo!. “Consumers want to be able to act when they view an ad on the Internet,” she said.

The study’s findings demand that advertisers and agencies embrace media neutrality, Woolmington said. “It makes sense for an agency to favor broadcast over viral … even though a less costly and therefore less remunerative viral campaign might net greater ROI for the client,” he noted.