Posted July 3, 2009 12:33 pm by with 6 comments

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harris logoThe results of a new poll from Harris Interactive indicate that Internet advertising isn’t as effective as search engine marketers would like to think. When asked what medium’s ads were most helpful in making purchase decisions, the 2500+ American respondents indicated that first television, then newspapers, then search engine ads. Internet banner ads fared even worse:

  • 37% said television ads were most helpful in purchase decisions
  • 18% said newspaper ads
  • 14% said search engine ads
  • 3% said radio ads
  • 1% said Internet banner ads

Perhaps most revealing, however, is the math. Those numbers don’t add up to 100% because another 28% (rounding effects) said that none of those ad media were helpful in purchase decisions.

The Harris poll also asked about what kinds of ads people ignore. Again, the banner ads didn’t do so well:

  • 46% tended to ignore Internet banner ads
  • But only 17% of people said they ignored search engine ads
  • 13% ignored TV ads
  • 9% ignored radio ads
  • 9% don’t ignore any of those ad media

The full results (PDF) break out the data by demographic and geography:

harris helpful

harris ignored

I’m kind of torn about these results. I’ve long said that as an Internet marketer, I’m proud to have people so subtly influenced by search engine ads that they don’t recognize that influence later. On the other hand, it’d be nice to be considered “helpful.” On yet another hand, since when is the point of advertising to be found “helpful”? Should that even be our goal?

What do you think? Is this something to get worried about, or should we go along our merry way, advertising or persuading but not “helping” people?


  • I’m highly skeptical of those responses. I believe people were being honest, but after all of the studies that I’ve read that show eye scanning behavior and how people don’t recognize search ads as ads, I think those numbers are way off the mark.

    Good for TV ad sales reps though.

    Last point: if search marketing was that ineffectual, where the heck do all those sales come from?

  • I completely disagree with these results.

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..Hey Dennis Kneale, Bloggers Do Not Equal Anonymity, Duh

  • I have to say I get a much better response from newspaper ads in that I actually get more buyers than tire kickers. My internet campaigns (Both organic and PPC) have really tanked in the last few months and I seem to be peddling faster just to stay still. It is becoming very labor intensive and I’m not sure that it is a great investment of my time anymore.

    mark harrison’s last blog post..Guarantor Credit

  • Jonathan Renker

    Unfortunately, TV ads a a stranglehold on mass marketing – so it’s the most recognizable. That’s why I think the response for TV was so high. Besides, there are multiple influences on a purchase decision. I think Harris flawed the survey from the start with their generalized question. I’d be curious to know if someone indicated TV, what the product was and why the TV ad influenced that decision.

    Truth would be more like TV might have given the awareness and other mediums reinforcement – with no single medium directly influencing the purchase – unless DR was involved with a special offer.

    As a side note, newspaper ads? When was this survey taken, 1984? (I know it’s recent) Are there any newspapers left? Seems for newspaper to spike so high, the demo for this survey was over 60.

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