NEW YORK: Engaging with online ads is increasingly becoming part of internet users' mainstream activity, a new survey has found, but this owes as much to serendipity as to the persuasive powers of advertisers.

Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange surveyed 1,000 online adults during March 2013 in 24 countries and found that 46% globally had looked at or read an ad for a brand or product in the preceding month. And 42% had watched a commercial while 25% had clicked on a banner or pop-up ad.

Within the US, those figures varied slightly, with 42% reading an ad, 46% watching a commercial and 15% clicking on a banner.

The most popular reason for engaging with an online ad, cited by 37%, was simply that it was for a brand or product the respondent liked or was interested in, while 33% did so when it was a product they were currently shopping for. A further 26% were attracted because they liked or were interested in the company represented.

But a significant 34% complained that they were forced to look at an ad in order to get to the screen they really wanted to see.

The ad itself was also effective in persuading around three in ten respondents to engage. Some 29% did so because they found the content interesting, funny or informative, while 28% engaged because they thought the ad was entertaining.

Great or catchy music (16%) and special effects or cinematography (13%) may be important aspects of an ad but were not in themselves significant reasons to engage with it.

Nor was the human factor a major influence, as 13% said they would engage with an online ad if a friend had told them about it. The presence of a spokesperson or celebrity the respondent liked drew 11%, while simple recognition of a famous person attracted 9%. Attractive or interesting people were at a similar level, being mentioned by only 9% of respondents.

American women were more likely than men to have watched a commercial or read an ad but they were on the same wavelength when it came to not clicking on a banner or pop-up ad.

The 18-34 age bracket was most likely to have watched a commercial online in the past month, although the 35-49 group took the lead in reading an ad and clicking on a banner or pop-up ad.

Data sourced from Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange, Marketing Charts; additional content by Warc staff