Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

New Research: Online Ads Fail Because They Distract

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 20, 2011

Online advertising is failing badly to literally click with readers and advertisers are trying to figure out how to improve a dismal 0.09 percent click-through rate.

A new report from Nielsen, commissioned by AdKeeper and WPP's 24/7 Real Media has found one answer to why online ads don't work: they distract.

Research Study From AdKeeper Reveals Respondents Say Banner Ads Distract Them From the Content They Came Online to View.

But surely you want ads that distract and thus attract the attention of readers? I thought that the reason online ads didn't work was because they failed to attract attention, people block them out.

Not so says the research:

The top reason people don't click banner advertisements is because they do not wish to be taken away from their current online activity.

This applied to nearly two-thirds of those surveyed. The number two reason was that the ads didn't interest them.

AdKeeper is a company with a mission to provide "a service that allows consumers to "Keep" and engage with online advertisements on their own time." You can click on a button and save an advert for later.

Maybe a better question AdKeeper could have commissioned would be: "How much, on a scale from 1 to 10, do you want to engage with an online advert?"

The current fashion in the advertising industry is "engagement" but who wants to engage with adverts? People will if they have to, to get a coupon, or something of value. But I've never heard fellow Internet users ask for more engaging advertising.

That's why clicks on ads were at just 0.09 percent in 2010. That's barely one click in 1,000. And that's why billions of ads litter our online spaces because they are so spectacularly ineffective.

Here are the full research findings:

- 61 percent don't want to be distracted: "Online banner ads take me away from my current website, or from what I am doing."

- 58 percent say online banner ads are not that relevant to them.

- 57 percent are wary of opening something they'll wish they hadn't.

- 57 percent -- are afraid of receiving spam from advertisers.

- 55 percent -- are worried about getting a virus.

- 54 percent -- don't trust most online banner ads they see.

- 46 percent -- worry that pop-ups will take over their screen.

- 43 percent say online banner ads don't seem interesting or engaging.

- 31 percent only want to click ads when they're in the mood or interested in looking at them.

- 31 percent are worried that their Internet behavior will be tracked.

The study was conducted by Nielsen over a 5-day period beginning on March 4, 2011, among 600 randomly selected adult US residents aged 18 to 54 who hardly ever or never click online banner advertisements.


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