Poll: Consumers Find Some Online Ads ‘Frustrating’

Just a few years ago, people who had any professional involvement with online ad campaigns were an exotic breed. Now, according to a LinkedIn Research Network/Harris Poll, those who use the Internet as an ad medium outnumber those who use TV or radio. However, as advertising shifts online, consumers don’t necessarily welcome it.

A segment of the polling last month was conducted among people with a professional involvement in the decision-making process about ad campaigns, whether at agencies or client companies. One question asked, “Do you typically incorporate the following types of advertising in your media campaign(s),” with a menu of choices that included Internet, print, radio, TV and cell-phone advertising. The biggest vote went to Internet advertising, with 92 percent of respondents saying they typically use it. Print was close behind, at 88 percent, while radio (46 percent), TV (46 percent) and cell-phone advertising (39 percent) lagged well behind.

If print’s strong number in response to that question suggests that the medium isn’t in such bad shape after all, just wait. A follow-up question asked the ad professionals to say whether they’re using each medium more often, less often or as often as they did a year ago. Predictably, the Internet had a strong “more often” vote, at 74 percent, as did advertising via cell phones (69 percent). But while 10 percent of respondents said they’re using print advertising more often, 49 percent said they’re using it less often. Actually, the responses weren’t much cheerier for the old broadcast media: 38 percent said they’re using TV less often, vs. 14 percent saying they use it more often; 43 percent said they’re using radio less often, vs. 11 percent saying they use it more often.

Marketing professionals’ enthusiasm for online advertising is not altogether shared by consumers. So we gather, at any rate, from a segment of the poll that asked respondents among the general public to offer opinions on how “frustrating” they find various aspects of Internet advertising. Rated as “very frustrating” by 80 percent of these respondents were “Ads that expand on the page and cover the content that you are trying to read.” Nearly as many had the same adverse opinion of “ads where you can’t find the skip/close button” (79 percent) and “ads that automatically pop up” (76 percent). Smaller majorities applied the “very frustrating” label to “ads that automatically open if you mouse over them” (66 percent), “animated ads playing automatically, with or without sound that distracts you” (60 percent) and “ads that play music/have loud soundtracks” (60 percent).

Although the rise of Internet advertising has plainly taken revenue away from old media, ad people don’t regard it as an either/or proposition. Fourteen percent of the poll’s ad professionals said they use their Internet advertising solely “as a stand-alone digital campaign,” but many more (54 percent) said they use it “in an integrated campaign with other media.” Thirty-three percent said they “use both equally.”

While partisans of Internet advertising speak of its ability to prompt immediate action on the part of consumers, that’s not the function most cited by the poll’s ad people when asked to say how they “typically” use their advertising in this medium. Seventy-nine percent said they use such advertising “as a branding device,” easily topping the numbers who said they typically use it “to drive information gathering for an offline transaction” (65 percent) or “to drive online transactions” (58 percent). Fifty-seven percent said they typically use it “to promote community around your brand, e.g., message boards, memberships, fan clubs.”

There was relatively little variation from one region to another in the proportion of ad people saying their campaigns include the Internet and print. But there were significant disparities when it comes to broadcast advertising. While 56 percent of respondents in the South said they use TV, just 39 percent in the West said so, as well as 44 percent in the East and 43 percent in the Midwest. There was a similar pattern with respect to radio advertising: 57 percent in the South said they use it, vs. 46 percent in the Midwest, 41 percent in the East and 39 percent in the West.