Study Shows Consumers Aren’t Sold on Online Advertising

If you are skeptical about the effectiveness of online advertising (or are involved in producing marketing content, print advertising, or TV commercials), read an intriguing new research study commissioned by Adobe.

Entitled “Click Here: The State of Online Advertising,” the report reveals that digital marketing is not meeting the needs of consumers. Produced by the research firm Edelman Berland, the report is based on interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 consumers and 250 professional marketers. The interviews were conducted from October 8 to 16, 2012.

According to the study, many consumers and professional marketers believe that traditional marketing is still more effective than online marketing. For example, the study revealed that two-thirds of consumers believe that television commercials are more effective than online advertising and that online banner ads do not work (54 percent).

Further, respondents prefer to view advertising in their favorite print magazine (45 percent) or while watching their favorite TV show (23 percent). Only 3 percent said they prefer to view ads via social media. No one said they like ads in an app.

Attitudes toward online advertising were overwhelmingly negative, with a large percentage of consumers saying they found online ads to be “annoying,” “distracting” and “all over the place.”

  • 53 percent agreed that “Most marketing is a bunch of B.S.”
  • 73 percent agreed that “Advertisements should tell a unique story, not just try to sell.”
  • 46 percent agreed that “Online advertising is creepy and stalks you.”
  • 67 percent agreed that “A video is worth 1,000 words.”

While advertising created by pros is widely seen as the most effective form of advertising, 27 percent of marketers and 28 percent of consumers believe that user-generated content is the best form of online advertising.

“This study is a wake-up call for marketers. We know there’s a tremendous opportunity – online, on mobile, in social – in terms of where consumers are spending their time and money. But as marketers we’ve yet to really break through,” said Ann Lewnes, chief marketing officer of Adobe. She believes customers will take notice when marketers start doing a better job of serving relevant content, delivering experiences that are engaging instead of intrusive, and measuring what is and isn’t working.

The Value of a “Like”

Not surprisingly, the majority of the study’s respondents use social media. More than half of the respondents said they are communicating their personal tastes and interests when they “like” a brand or product and 43 percent explicitly state they are recommending that product to their friend and families. Yet, 53 percent wish there was a dislike button to express their unhappiness with a product.

Still, the “likes” get attention, with 29 percent of consumers commenting that “likes” encourage them to “check out” a product. Only 2 percent say a “like” drives them to makes a purchase.

Companies investing in branded social media sites and activities are also facing an uphill battle. Just 2 percent of respondents believe that information about a brand from a company’s social media site is credible.

The Marketing Profession Is Not Valued

More than 90 percent of consumers and marketing professionals agree that marketing is strategic to business. And, nine out of ten recognize that marketing is paramount to driving sales. Yet, when asked if marketing benefits society, only 13% of the people agreed.

As a profession, advertising/marketing ranked among the lowest four in terms of value to society. The four professions that consumers regarded as most valuable are: teachers (92 percent), scientists (88 percent), programmer/engineers (68 percent), and social workers (61 percent).  The four least valuable professions are actor/actress (13 percent), dancer (13 percent), advertising/marketing (13 percent), and PR professional (11 percent).

“Marketers are some of the most creative people in the world,” said Lewnes. She predicted that “Now that we have data insights to back up instinct, these outdated perceptions of marketing are going to change.”

So what do you think–both as a consumer and a producer of creative content?

Personally, I applaud Adobe for releasing the results of this survey.

It’s so easy to get caught up in all the hype about social media, mobile marketing, and other online marketing channels that we often overlook the fact that people don’t change nearly as rapidly as technology does. While we like communicating with  Facebook friends and using smartphone apps, that doesn’t mean we want to see them cluttered up with ads. Plus, many of us have grown up with entertaining Super Bowl ads on TV and gorgeous advertising photography in print magazines. We don’t mind looking at well-produced or provocative ads. But does advertising have to be absolutely everywhere we look?


Report: “Click Here: The State of Online Advertising”