Posted January 31, 2011 8:58 am by with 9 comments

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One of the most common predictions is the growth of online advertising spend over the next however-many years. It’s the prediction that keeps the engine turning and the machine moving forward. After all, if there is no advertising then why are we doing this whole Internet and mobile thing anyway? Are we just trying to make life better for people? C’mon man!

One metric that no one in the marketing industry likes to talk about is just how accepted and effective online ads are. Well, I take that back. If the study says that these ads are a good thing then it’s presented as common sense and logic but if you see the kind of numbers that AdAge produced through a study done by Ipsos Observer, then the industry will look for the closest rug to sweep this one under. Emarketer presents these findings.

It’s safe to say that most people don’t like ads in general. They like to be entertained by them but not interrupted by them. They tolerate them but when they can watch a show or an event with limited commercial interruption or no ads at all they are quickly reminded how nice it is to just be able to take in some content without taking in unsolicited pitches.

So while it is never a good idea to draw strong conclusions from one piece of research, I always pay more attention to studies that find things to be less than perfect in the marketing world. This study does that with mobile and social ads (in other words, the future of the online space, right?) being the least liked ads across all media.

Apparently, just because everyone is starting to become mobile it doesn’t mean everyone wants to be hawked in the mobile environment. Face it, ads are intrusive on a small screen in that they take up valuable real estate or, even worse, they delay the ability to get information quickly that is the most appealing aspect of the mobile experience.

What do these attitudes by consumers actually mean for the Internet of the future? Like most things, it depends. It depends on just what people will be willing to ingest with regard to marketing messages in the mobile space. I think it will create a need for marketers to be less ad oriented and more “ad in the form of content” focused. Advertising will need to be useful rather than just “in the way” in this new, advertising real estate deprived, environment.

Oh, and if you are Facebook you should take note about the relatively poor performance of advertising in social media. If this study has even an ounce of truth in it, this is a real concern considering that the social media advertising model is where $50 billion valuations are born.

So while we get all jacked up about the continued growth of the social and mobile space the people that matter (you know those pesky end users who represent the vast majority of people on the Internet and not just Silicon Valley super users) are saying that ads in these two areas are really a bad thing. Ruh roh.

Do you think the Phd’s and the insiders in the Valley are listening? If the past is any indication, then the answer would have to be no. They will just move right along because they think they can simply impose their will on the great unwashed and uncool to make them like or accept advertising in the mobile and social space. Maybe this time they will be wrong (did I just actually type that?!?!) and the consequences will be tough to take. Too early to tell but it sure is interesting to consider.

Your thoughts?

  • Very telling numbers. I think this speaks to how jarring ads can be compared to the primary tasks users are performing in the channels where ads aren’t appreciated:
    – Email – We’re there to get updates from friends and colleagues
    – Social Media – We’re connecting with friends and NOT in the mood for commercial interactions
    – Mobile – We’re either engaged in leisure activity or have an immediate task at hand.
    Ultimately it appears that the less the channel is about simply consuming media, the less willing we are to sit through advertising. Great post!

  • This doesn’t mean much as of now. I compare it to how Facebook changes their layouts occasionally. Everyone is up in arms until they forget how the old layout functioned.

    With media, it’s just going to take a longer time for people to adapt to the change. Soon (within the next five years), people will be so used to seeing advertisements…it will not bother them nearly as much.

    Additionally, with the research that marketers are doing as to the effectiveness of the ads, they will be less intrusive and more interactive. People don’t like change initially, and since this is such a relatively new form of advertising…it will take a while for people to adopt it and for marketers to excel at it.

  • Nice points. Here are a couple of comments:

    1. Many digital media platforms are completely free. Without advertising there wouldn’t be a Facebook or YouTube or otherwise. Most of us expect advertising in traditional media–even though we dislike it–because we were “trained” to expect it. We may not be conditioned to expect ads, in media that we are actively engage in, yet.

    2. Many advertisers are irresponsible with their media placement of ads…meaning it isn’t targeted correctly. And, this is basically makes all advertisers look bad. Unfortunately Advertising doesn’t require a professional license…so everyone thinks they are qualified.

    3. Some social media platforms, while they will offer a public utility, will probably prove themselves to be unprofitable in the long run.

    All of this equates to a need for more targeted ad serving from our industry.

  • this article is for me very interesting to read because it kinda confirms my apprehension. I have always been skeptical of the social advertising model because it has not worked in the past. the paradox for these sites is that users are unwilling to pay. so they need to bring in advertising to keep the apparatus functioning. most users will tolerate a moderate amount of ads. with these valuations, the investors expect return on their investment. since the only source of revenue is through advertising, it will mean more ads. then you reach a point when users start noticing these ads, not in a positive way because it will be in their faces. before you know it they’ll be leaving in droves, if advertisers haven’t determined first to take their dollars elsewhere. of course, I agree with patrick that hostility to advertising has to do with the novelty of the medium but are there any studies that measure the time before they gain widespread acceptance? it’s also striking to me that ads seems to more accepted the more entertaining the medium is. I don’t know about you folks but I’m online to perform productive tasks.

  • @ Josh – I think that your point of our willingness to accept advertising being somewhat channel dependent is well taken. I personally cannot imagine a time where mobile advertising will be ‘likable’ for me while I simply ignore ALL social media ads to the best of my ability.

    @Joe – I can see your point about people growing into an acceptance of these ads. I am not convinced that it will be widespread though thus limiting the effectiveness of these mediums as advertising options. I do think that ads that are more content driven will work better although it will be important that the user know they are reading an advertorial of sorts. The backlash of being tricked could be just as severe.

    @Gilbert – Targeting will be a big deal. Will the information be available to advertisers for better targeting? Right now, though I will say that social networks do a poor job of listening. Facebook, for instance, continues to show ads that I have told them I am not interested in which tells me they are just trying to run big numbers to support their valuation and putting quality a distant second. Shocking coming from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, isn’t it ? 🙂

  • @ Gilbert – your comment about us being “trained” to expect advertising in traditional media is so on point! I don’t even think twice about it anymore, and there really wouldn’t be any facebook etc. if we didn’t have advertising, which indicates how little control we have over what we see on the internet.

    I think that if social and mobile advertising was better targeted it would be much less of an annoyance to us as internet users. Because lets face it – social/mobile advertising isn’t going anywhere so we are going have have to expect/accept it regardless!

  • These are fascinating results – it’s important to listen to the audience we’re trying to target. I have to agree with Joe Patrick, though. I think social media ads just need some getting used to. I personally *love* Facebook ads because a lot of times, they know exactly what I like. Without those ads, I might not know about Mod Cloth or a couple blogs I now frequently read.

  • Ken

    It’s very possible that the dislike relates to the obnoxious ads that pop up, talk, take over the screen, etc that won’t go away until you find the close button. I hate those too. But I think people will come to accept targeted ads that don’t yell at you or jump in your face.

    Ads won’t be going away, they will adapt, most likely being very targeted to the user and be more like content than dancing aliens. I wouldn’t conclude that advertising on mobile or social media are doomed based on this study. The market is still new and evolving.

    As others have pointed out, without revenue lots of sites will go away. People have been conditioned to not pay for information on the internet, so until that changes the revenue must come from somewhere. If valuable resources start going away then peoples attitudes will change.

  • Kirill Storch

    Okay so by now it’s a known fact that Facebook’s clumsy, lumbering steps towards monetization has resulted in their fickle users acting coldly and disdainfully towards advertisers efforts to source them from their precious networking.

    My question is this…if you took your ad and turned it into a custom real estate branding app, and then iframed it in your facebook PAGE, rather than having it off the Facebook- and then ran an adverts campaign around that page, rather than running it off the site would that work better. There is at least one company I know that does this, but I have no idea what kind of results they are getting.

    See these guys have a branded app with real estate components (we would want a real estate only app) that is iframed rather than in the ads section

    And then they stream their website right into their FB page!