BEIJING: A new joint initiative from the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and Firefly Millward Brown has offered tips on consumers' online ad preferences.

Initial findings from Project Reconnect, an ongoing survey based on a global poll of parents and teenagers, found a "remarkable" level of agreement across territories and age groups over which features of online ads are acceptable - and which are not.

The researchers, who questioned consumers in four key territories - Brazil, China, the UK and the US - found that ads offering a "tangible benefit" for users are acceptable - as are ads that are "different, fun, engaging and/or offer something extra".

But the survey also revealed that people "instinctively" describe online advertising in potentially negative terms - "pop-ups, banners and spam".

Generally, there is a shared belief there is a "time and place" for online ads, and that advertisers should not overstep boundaries and "pester" consumers.

"Many of the insights may appear intuitive to seasoned marketers but it is not obvious to consumers that marketers are abiding by these ground rules," said Stephan Loerke, managing director of the WFA.

"The industry may benefit from making these principles known and committing to re-visit them on the basis of consumer feedback."

Despite the survey's discovery of a broad consensus on various online advertising issues, the WFA/Firefly research found certain divisions between cohorts.

For example, there is a major age divide on the degree of "control" people feel they have over their exposure to online ads.

Teenagers tend to be more confident and "banner blind", with many claiming that they simply do not see much display advertising, such as the messages that appear on the margins of Facebook pages.

There were also some divisions on the acceptability of certain marketing channels.

People are generally more positive towards brands making contact with them via email than via SMS. But Chinese consumers are notably more positive towards certain kinds of text message ads.

Findings from Project Reconnect were unveiled at the WFA's annual conference, held in Beijing, China yesterday (April 13th).

David Tiltman, Warc's international editor, is reporting from the WFA's Global Advertising Week in Beijing. His first blog on the event is here.

Data sourced from WFA/Firefly Millward Brown; additional content by Warc staff