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Are you wasting money in your online marketing mix?

Web Surfers Ignore Display Ads, Value Search Engine Results

File this one away in the “in other news, the sun is still shining” department: it seems web surfers don’t pay attention to online advertising. The heading of the press release from a recently released Adweek Media/Harris Poll asks “Are Advertisers Wasting Their Money?” and points out that 63% of online adults say they ignore internet ads, the most out of all advertising mediums.

From the press release:

63percentofwebsurfersignoreonlineadvertisingAlthough the digital space is considered to be a great place to target and reach consumers, when adults were asked which type of ads do they tend to ignore or disregard the most, over six in ten say Internet ads (63%). Among those who ignore Internet ads, two in five say they ignore banner ads (43%) the most and one in five say they ignore search engine ads (20%) the most.

I say this only partially tongue-in-cheek, but what might be most surprising about the study is the 37% of respondents who do not claim to ignore internet ads. And, many are doing more than passively ignoring online advertising.  The popular Firefox adblocking add-on has been downloaded more than 100 million times since 2006.

Conditioned to Turn a Blind Eye

How bad is the growing indifference to online advertising? A comment in Techcrunch’s post of the study succinctly and humorously captures online users growing conditioning to ignore traditional online advertising:

I remember the other day when I went out to eat for Mexican food. I was looking for a quesadilla for what seemed like 10 minutes and could not find it. I finally asked the server who pointed directly at it. The problem was that quesadilla section was formatted like an internet ad and what was (I am guessing) supposed to be something to draw in my attention, actually led me to skip over it completely.

So online users are, at best, indifferent, at worst, blind, to traditional online advertising.
What’s a marketer to do? Robin Wauters at Techcrunch exhorts marketers to get more creative and better target online users:

As for Web advertising – one can only hope brands and publishers alike realize that they need to get more creative and work on better targeting, not try and find ways to make surfing the Internet even more of a nightmare by throwing more intrusive advertising units and more (colorful descriptive adjective removed) “welcome screens” our way.

Certainly more creative and targeted advertising is needed, and new, maturing mediums such as social can offer improved targeted opportunities. But I think there is another way of looking at this too.

So much of (good) marketing is about understanding the psychology of your target market and being in-sync with their behavior patterns. Does online users’ growing conditioning to ignore traditional online advertising mean in order to meet brand development goals marketers should turn to the online real estate users are by its very nature paying attention to: the search engine results pages?

We know from previous research studies whether the searcher clicks on a search result or not, search impressions increase key brand metrics such as brand trust and favorability, likelihood to purchase and likelihood to visit a website. Developing the brand via search, means marketers are reaching users via osmosis (pull) as they peruse the search results they are inherently interested in, rather than the more in your face approach with advertising they seem to increasingly eschew (push).

In your opinion does the new online brand development paradigm include focusing on brand search visibility and optimizing search snippets for more than just click-throughs?

-Nathan Safran
Senior Research Analyst

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