Red Herring, 1080076X, 1/21/2008.
This short article reports some of the key findings of a survey conducted to investigate internet users' attitudes and behaviors related to in-stream video ads--video advertisements which proceed, interrupt, or precede normal video content. The findings show an extreme dissatisfaction with in-stream video ads which has led to a portion abandoning the websites they were using when such ads were introduced. Some light is shed on why ads elicited such a strong reaction; viewers of video content like TV shows may expect and be reconciled to commercials on traditional mediums like television, but they do not expect ads in their online content, and are perhaps unpleasantly surprised by their intrusion. In order to increase effectiveness of in-stream video ads, the author recommends making ad content more relevant to the video content being viewed and decreasing the length of ads. This latter recommendation makes particular sense for a number of reasons. Consumers generally prefer minimally intrusive ads to longer ones. The also seem particularly disgusted with internet video advertising when compared with television ads, and are thus less likely to sit through television-length ads on the internet. The article also describes some creative ad placement which may minimize consumer irritation by blocking less of the video screen.
This report is interesting from a number of perspectives. First, it provides some support for the social contract view of advertising by noting that consumers seem less likely to accept video ads on the internet than on television, despite similarities in their use. While television viewers utilize many different strategies to minimize their exposure to ads, from channel surfing to DVR, there seems to be less hostility toward the ads themselves than on the internet. This may be because internet users have not yet adopted a contract in which their attention to ads seems a fair exchange for content. The article is also interesting because it highlights another type of advertising--in-stream video--which appears to affect consumers' attitudes, in this case negatively. It also reiterates the findings of Wise et al. that ad relevancy to content likely increases positive attitudes toward the ad and broadens the context of the finding from advergames to in-stream videos, a less unique type of advertising.
*Because this was not an academic study, I was not able to access the actual study results, only this article.
Internet Research: Electronic Networking Applications and Policy 13(5), 375-385.
Lori D. Wolin and Pradeep Korgaonkar, (2003).
This article explores the differences between male and female internet advertising beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. The authors hypothesized that males would have in general more positive beliefs about internet advertising, stronger positive attitudes about internet advertising, and more internet consumption behavior. A survey was conducted with 420 respondents. Six dimensions of belief were tested: enjoyability, offensiveness, informative, deceptiveness, annoyingness, and usefulness. Regarding attitudes, respondents were asked how good or bad they found internet advertising, how much they liked it, and how essential it was in general and to them. Behavior was measured by whether respondents had purchased something over the internet in the past year, and how often they visited 22 different websites. Results mostly supported the hypotheses. In particular, men held more positive beliefs about internet advertising, and had slightly stronger positive feelings about internet advertising. Interestingly, these positive beliefs and attitudes converted into behavior as well. Men reported more frequent internet purchases.
Wolin and Korgaonkar's study provides specific information on the effect the consumer characteristics of gender have on attitudes about internet advertising. It indicates that, while other articles assume the ineffectiveness of internet advertising because of low click-through rates, some groups, particularly males, may not feel as negatively about internet ads as would be expected. Other studies, such as the one reported in "Report: Most Men (18-34) Don't Mind Online Ads" (Brandweek, 49(44), 8; not included in this project), have found similar trends. Wolin and Korgaonkar's study also reveals an unusual trend: females tend to have more negative attitudes and beliefs about internet ads and, as predicted, less purchase behavior on the internet, but reportedly prefer shopping sites more then men. Wolin and Korgaonkar note that belief, attitude, and behavior do not necessarily have the hierarchical, causal relationship often expected, as this is an example of. Rather, one or two of the dimensions may align with each other while another may be completely opposite. Lastly, this article also details ways that advertising may be better targeted to the respective genders. Particularly they should target women through ads in traditional media and offering tangible rewards when utilizing the internet.
Zavier Dreze and Francois-Zavier Hussherr, (1999).
This article examines four questions regarding banners used in internet advertising: 1) why banner ads were ineffective, 2) what can be done to improve effectiveness, 3) are click-through rates a valid measure of banner ad effectiveness, and 4) are more traditional measures like recall more valid. Dreze and Hussherr report the findings of two studies to address these questions. The first is an eye-tracking study which found that banner ads do not appear to be effective because audiences actively avoid looking at them. Even when audiences do look at the banner, they do not actively remember it later. The second study varied message, color, repetition, animation, shape, and size of the banner ads and then tested brand awareness, aided and unaided recall, and brand recognition. They found that content and message were the most important factors influecing banner ad effectiveness, and that banner ads can increase brand awareness. Furthermore, they concluded that traditional measures of brand awareness, recall, and recognition are more appropriate measures of effectiveness than click-through rates alone.
This article provides a contrast to Wang et al. in that it looks specifically at goal-oriented, directed behavior that is not assisted (and may in fact be hampered) by advertising, rather than information-seeking or exploratory behavior which is more likely to align with advertising content. While Wang et al. theorized that exploratory motives provide the best environment for internet advertising, and especially directional marketing, Dreze and Hussherr find that internet ads can still be effective to some degree, even when interrupting another task or when met with a negative attitude and avoidance. This article is also useful because it documents that the usefulness of consumers' attitudes towards advertising is limited in predicting advertising effectiveness because brand awareness may still increase. These findings may be seen as precursors to the recent work done by Yoo, who described the cognitive processes which may underly this result.
International Marketing Review,
Vol. 14 No. 5, 1997, pp. 362-375.
Mary Ellen Gordon and Kathryn De Lima-Turner.
This study is an early look at consumer attitudes towards internet advertising through the lens of social contracts. It draws off of previous works which utilize a social contract framework in analyzing direct mail marketing, to impose a similar framework over internet advertising. In this implicit contract, consumers give attention, private information, and other useful commodities to advertisers in exchange for internet content and access. Within this framework, Gordon and De Lima-Turner examine specifically the trade-offs consumers make among advertising attributes, such as ad placement, message, and their own level of control. The authors conducted an internet survey to examine which of five attributes--who controls access to ads, placement, message, influence on fees, and how private information is collected--are most important to consumers.
While this survey may seem rather limited in relevance to the topic of current consumer attitudes toward internet advertising because it was not published recently and because the sample of consumers was skewed (overly educated and overly male), the main findings have been borne out by history and other studies. Somewhat surprisingly to the authors, they found that internet consumers are considerably lazier than expected. When summarizing their results, they say, "The majority of Internet users, at least in our sample, seem to take quite a passive approach to the tradeoffs within the social contract. It is as though they view advertising as a fact of life. They hope it is as entertaining and as well targeted as possible, but they certainly do not want to exert any effort in ensuring this." These findings concur with later studies which describe consumers' low attention to and lack of engagement with internet ads. The authors were also surprised to find that consumers were comfortable with their usage being monitored for the sake of advertising. This could be supported by the popularity of Google, Gmail, and other similar services which provide targeted ads in exchange for personal information.
Beyond providing findings about what influences attitudes toward advertising, the article also provide a framework for understanding why factors in this study and others matter. Environments in which ttitudes toward advertising are positive, or at least neutral, could be examples of successful social contracts between advertisers and consumers, while situations in which consumers feel negatively toward advertisements could be the result of social contracts still being negotiated or contracts which once were accepted but have failed as changes occurred.
Eighth Americas Conference on Information Systems, 1143–1148
Chingning Wang, Ping Zhang, Risook Choi, and Michael D'Eredita (2002).
Wang et al. go beyond the familiar assertion that consumers ignore and devalue advertising, regardless of the medium, by considering the active nature of consumers according to the Uses and Gratifications model. They particularly emphasize the interactivity of some advertisements. These ads allow consumers to actively process, evaluate, and utilize the information provided, and are hypothesized to be the object of more positive attitudes from consumers. Wang et al. note that the internet is an especially good medium for these interactive ads. They also consider the motives consumers have when using a particular kind of media as a factor in determining attitude. Advertising which is particularly interactive, allowing consumers' high levels of control and which meets the informational needs that are consumers' motives for utilizing internet sources elicits an increased perception of value from consumers. The authors conducted a survey with students and staff from a northeastern college in which twelve different types of advertising types were presented and attitudinal responses were elicited.
This article is particularly useful to a study of consumer attitudes toward internet advertising because it provides an account of situations in which internet advertising can be especially effective. It serves in part to balance other sources which find consumer attitudes to be more negative. However, it is quite limited in its explanation of its methods and results. It is also limited in its results themselves, in that the description of internet advertising which can be safely considered effective is fairly narrow--limited to directional marketing--though it does outline some attributes which, if incorporated, could be helpful to other types of advertising as well. The article also includes a list of both advertisement and consumer characteristics which influence attitude, including entertainment, informativeness, credibility, demographic considerations, level of irritation evoked by advertisements, and interactivity. Entertainment, interactivity, and irritation are three factors which repeatedly appear in advertising literature. While Wang et al. theorize that the informational content of ads may be particularly effective, other studies find that entertainment value is of more importance.
Journal of Advertising Research, 37 (2), 33-45.
Briggs, R. and N. Hollis, (1997).
Briggs and Hollis conducted a fairly early experiment into whether banner ads are effective independent of click-through rates. They compared click-through to entering a car dealership the day after seeing a car advertisement: ideal, but not likely because of variations in audience motivations and intentions towards products. This recognition of the limits of click-through comes even before rates had plummeted in the 2000's to below 1%. Briggs and Hollis instead measured the effects a single banner ad exposure had on brand awareness by conducting a controlled experiment over the internet with a random sample of HotWired users. Participants were directed to a web page with a survey that collected their demographic information, with a banner ad at the top. The next day, participants who had completed the survey were asked to fill out another survey which collected data targeted to the ad they have viewed. The results indicated that even a single exposure can have an effect on brand awareness. In the most compelling of the brands tested, a men's apparel brand with almost no previous advertising exposure, brand awareness increased 200 percent. As this demonstrates, banner ads are especially effective with brands which are relatively new, have minimal previous advertising, or for some other reason have low brand awareness initially. As awareness increases due to exposure, returns diminish, though ads continue to have some effect.
This study provides an early assessment of the effects internet advertising can have on consumer attitudes towards specific companies independent of its effect on behaviors like click-through. Despite the fact that it is a relatively old study and the less than ideal sample which could threaten generalizability, it is greatly cited by other authors, and therefore worth examining. It depicts how advertisers may still achieve some of their goals, despite consumers' negative attitudes toward internet advertising as a whole. If consumers see banner ads, even briefly and without strong interest in them, brand awareness may still increase, as seen further in Dreze and Hussherr. Is it this finding which prompts the authors to state confidently, "Our results tell us, simply and unequivocally, that [banner advertising] works." Considering the mixed results of later studies, this is likely an overstatement, but the claim that banner ads do have some effect independent of attention and positive affect still holds true.
Journal of Interactive Marketing, 22(2), 2-18.
Yoo, C. Y., (2008).
In light of the considerable findings that consumers do not pay attention to advertising, Yoo examines the role implicit memory plays in the effectiveness of ads. A study was conducted in which level of attention was manipulated, and attitudes towards brands were measured. The results indicate that positive attitudes towards brands increased regardless of the level of attention directed at the advertisement. Moreover, while participants who received the implicit memory condition were not as likely as those receiving the explicit memory condition to include the target brand in a list of brands which they would consider when making a particular purchase, they were more likely to list the brand than those who had received no ad exposure. This shows that exposure to ads, even while accompanied by low attention, can increase the role the advertised brand plays in consumption choices. Thus, while focused attention on internet ads is ideal, even mere exposure to ads with minimal or no attention can have positive effects. The author hypothesizes that this is due to implicit memory and priming effects, in which previously stored memory is unconsciously and unintentionally retrieved and utilized.
Yoo's article provides a response to alarmed reports that consumers are not paying attention to internet advertising. While the study notes that audiences which are interested in and attending to advertising messages are ideal and should be sought after, it also refutes the idea that internet advertising which does not evoke this response is useless, ineffective, or a waste of money and space. This is especially good news for advertisers considering some of the abysmal findings of other studies. One of the key strengths of Yoo's work is that it provides not only findings, but also a theoretical framework rooted in previous psychological work which facilitates understanding of the findings. This theory can in part explain some of the conflicting studies, some of which decry internet advertising as a lost cause and others which consider its fate not so hopeless or even downright promising. The findings also provide a clear path for advertisers: continue to strive for increased attention to advertising, but meanwhile continue purchasing ad space because it is likely to do some good.