Social ads trail traditional media

29 March 2011

LONDON: Traditional media advertising remains a more effective driver of online traffic than the social networking equivalent, a multimarket study has found.

Consultancy Deloitte and research firm YouGov polled 12,077 people in Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the UK and US, combining the results with qualitative studies from Brazil, India and Korea. (A full breakdown of this research is available to Warc subscribers here.)

Respondents were asked how often they visited websites after being exposed to various types of media, dividing answers into three categories: "frequently", "occasionally" and "rarely or never".

In all of the nations assessed, social networks registered scores below those of newspaper ads, radio spots and offers distributed by email.

"Social networks may sometimes feel ubiquitous but they remain an emerging business based on rapid and ongoing innovation," said Andrew Haughton, a strategy consultant at Deloitte.

"There is an opportunity to exert real influence on consumer views and purchase decisions, but it is likely to require greater sophistication in how brands reach social network users."

Social media totals achieved 3% in the UK, and reached a peak - albeit still in single digits - of 9% in the US.

Search engines returned the best ratings, as 36% of contributors agreed properties like Google and Bing regularly led them to visit other websites, including 43% in Japan.

Television ads followed on 20%, beating email alerts and deals with 16%, and press advertising's 13%.

Based on data collected across the last three years, Deloitte revealed email marketing has become more effective, as the number of Americans accessing sites having started at this point rose from 61% to 66%.

These figures stood at 54% and 63% in Germany, and Japan lodged a modest increase, rising one percentage point to 68%.

Although preferences covering search, television, email and the further formats monitored proved largely constant in most countries, the UK witnessed a divergent trend.

The only segment improving in efficacy terms among the British panel were ads on different websites, recording 33% for driving traffic, measured against 31% in 2008.

By contrast, search endured a decline from 86% to 68%, coming in at 70% and 60% for television, while email also experienced a slide, as a high of 65% dwindled to 47%.

During the same timeframe, social networks delivered a contraction from 32% to 20%, meaning 3% of members now "frequently" find material via this route, and 17% "occasionally" do so.

Within this, 38% of 14-21 year olds in the UK often viewed specific internet content as a consequence of advertising on social networks, dipping to 5% for 64-75 year olds.

Such a pattern was consistent with Germany, where 27% of the sample accessed an online platform after seeing ads on sites such as Facebook, hitting 53% for the youngest netizens, but just 13% among the oldest.

The "biggest disappointment", however, may be the 28-44 year old category, posting 26% in the UK, 29% in Japan and Germany, 39% in France and 47% in the US.

Putting this into context, radio secured 60% from Americans of an equal age profile, demonstrating that Web 2.0 sites have some distance to make up on traditional channels.

Overall, the study suggested as social media usage and advertising are in their "infancy", more time, analysis and experimentation will be required before drawing conclusions.

Data sourced from Deloitte; additional content by Warc staff