Aussies Online: New Report Studies Surfers Down Under

26 September 2001

Sydney-based interactive measurement and research specialist RedSherriff has published The Banner and Beyond, its first online advertising report.

Key points are:

• Over half of all internet users surveyed had visited a Web site as a result of offline advertising
• Users noticed online advertising but many had negative perceptions as a result of pop-up and spam email advertising
• 'Banner Blindness', a phenomenon recently identified in the US, also affects Australian internet users
• Three mutually exclusive psychographic groups were identified to understand the behaviours and perceptions of internet users and their reactions to online advertising.

The research shows that two thirds (66%) of internet users are exposed to advertising most often through their TV consumption. TV is perceived to have an advantage over other mediums due to its usage of visuals, movement and sound, as well as being capable of inducing a much higher emotional response than any other mass media. Fifty three percent (53%) of internet users surveyed stated they had in fact gone online and visited Web sites after viewing an advertisement on TV.

While TV plays a dominant advertising media role for a majority of internet users, nine percent of users believed they were most often exposed to advertising via the internet. internet advertising ranked a close second to newspaper advertising in driving users to the Net.

Consumers perceived different media as having particular communication strengths. Television was seen as being capable of generating emotional response whereas internet advertising was appreciated for its interactivity and ability to link to detailed information. Consumers expected elements of consistency between online and offline advertising for a particular brand or product.

According to RedSherriff’s James Burge: “Consumer reach and advertising effectiveness can be maximised through an integrated online and offline approach. However, the research shows that there was little conscious awareness or recall of integrated online and offline advertising campaigns amongst internet users.”

“Each medium has its communication strengths and should be employed to leverage on these to meet brand and product communication objectives. Synergies arise from employing different media for their strengths and where possible driving consumers between them.”

What does it take to remember an ad?

Group participants generally recalled seeing advertising on web sites, the formats and creative of the advertising, but failed to remember brand names or product information immediately after viewing. Overall, users most often recalled online advertising that was highly noticeable, relevant or entertaining. Online advertising was more likely to be recalled where the following elements were present:

• Ads positioned above the fold
• Well known brands
• Logo prominence
• Creative with images or graphics
• Ads that included movement and animation
• Ads with an element of interactivity
• Relevant brand or product messages
• Campaign consistency or familiarity with offline communication and promotion

Whilst many online ads performed on some of the aspects mentioned above, ineffective execution of one of these elements could be enough to dramatically reduce the apparent effectiveness of a campaign.

Behaviour and Attitude of the 'Ad Absorber'

To gain in-depth understanding of how internet users react to online advertising and how their behaviours and attitudes differ, research identified three mutually exclusive psychographic groups. These are:

• Ad Absorbers - more positive than negative attitude to advertising on the internet
• Ad Ambivalents - mixed or neutral attitude to advertising on the internet
• Ad Avoiders - more negative than positive attitude to advertising on the internet

Participants discussed how they perceived the different forms of online advertising. The formats included:

• Unsolicited and solicited email - the mention of email advertising cues unpleasant memories and negative perceptions for many, though some recounted more positive experiences and attitudes towards relevant opt-in email marketing such as newsletters.
• Banner ads - 'Banner blindness', a phenomenon recently identified in the US, also appears to affect Australian internet users. Users state they usually 'zone out' and ignore information from the banner area as it is expected to contain advertising.
• Buttons and towers - Buttons and tiles were considered a fairly unintrusive form of advertising and users frequently failed to see them. Towers were noticed slightly more often.
• Pop-ups - received overwhelmingly negative reactions, though they had the greatest level of awareness and, in some cases, had been found to be relevant or entertaining.
• Advertorial and sponsorships - extremely low level of awareness, this type of promotion blended in with the site and was often not identified as advertising.
• Competitions and surveys - frequently recalled due to the involvement required on the part of the user. Some users expressed a high level of enthusiasm for participation for both online and offline, while others did not feel that participation would result in any rewards.

The research also looked into new advertising and media technologies such as SMS advertising and promotion, Interactive TV and attitudes towards ad stripping.

Short Message Services (SMS) - approximately one in five (22%) of all internet users were aware of SMS advertising and promotion, 23 percent were receptive to the idea.

Interactive TV - few users considered the implications of interactive TV advertising. Those who had reacted favourably to the concept could see benefits in being able to immediately respond to advertising that was of interest.

Awareness of ad stripping was high with nearly one half of the internet users surveyed, (47%), having knowledge of the software. Whilst linking to the idea, most users did not believe they would be bothered to download and use the software.

News source: Daily Research News Online