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The One Thing Worse Than Internet Ads Is…


In the consumer’s eye, the one thing worse than annoying internet ads is the widely held belief that too much personal information is held online when it comes to online marketing. Graeme Hutton reports.

Ask Millennials what the potential drawbacks of the internet are, and surprisingly, you may find that annoying internet ads don’t make the top of the list. According to UM’s annual survey of consumers media habits, Media in Mind, 33% of 18-34s agree a lot that ‘Too much personal information is collected online’ but only 28% similarly think ‘internet ads are annoying’.

In the consumer’s eye, the one thing worse than annoying internet ads is the widely held belief that too much personal information is held online when it comes to online marketing.

From my perspective, there are two unexpected features about these two consumer responses:

1. These high numbers are nothing new. We started tracking ‘too much information is collected online’ in 2012 and it was at the identical level, 33 percent. Indeed, we’ve been looking at ‘Internet ads are annoying’ since 2009 and if anything the ‘agree a lot’ percentage is trending down slightly from 31 percent in 2009 to 28 percent we see today.

2. Millennials are not trailblazers in this area, they are a near mirror-image of the general population’s sentiments. Among adults 18+, the levels that ‘agree a lot’ with these two notions are within 2 percent points of the Under 35’s numbers.

Why 18-34s may help marketers unlock the online ad solution

While younger adults might outwardly find Internet advertising annoying, framing the issue differently reveals quite a different, and encouraging, perspective. Not only do 18-34s enthusiastically embrace online media, compared to older generations, they can also be very open to certain types of online marketing. To illustrate, here’s a map comparing men 18-34 to women 18-34 with 25 leading statements about the web:

18-34 men vs 18-34 women: key online attitudes

Let’s focus on the top right hand quadrant of this map, which represents the above-average scores of both Men and Women aged 18-34. Importantly, these scores are indices vs all adults, where any statement in the top right quadrant is well above the all adult norm of 100, indicating a highly distinctive trait for Millennials. Highlighted in red are all the statements which, arguably, are relevant to developing online marketing that can resonate with consumers.

At the very top right-hand part of the quadrant are three very positive statements related to online marketing:

1. I’m interested in ads on (social) networking sites

2. (The internet) allows me to stay in contact with brands I like

3. I think more positively about companies with social networking pages

The average index score across both genders for these three statements is 193 - in other words, they are nearly double the scores of the general population. By any measure, these statements are clearly pro online marketing.

Of course, slightly further in to the quadrant, there are some more qualified attitudes, but these should be acceptable to any advertiser who plays by the rulebook and has their eyes wide open in engaging consumers:

4.     I expect brands to respond to comments

5.     I often rate and review products (and services)

6.     I only speak to brands if they are giving something for free

This last point, #6, has a slightly male bias, however women also have their own preferences. For example, in the lower left quadrant, we can see young women agree with a statement which directly implies a positive view about online transactional marketing:

7.     If shopping, I try to buy on the web (first).

In addition, the map also points to some other key strategic options for marketers with high scoring assertions such as:

8.     I’m more likely to ‘friend’ a non-profit

9.     When I watch TV, I use social networking.

The former of these indicates a possible route via cause marketing. The latter point suggests social TV marketing and product integrations into TV programs may be a route for some. Interestingly, while social TV scores equally with men and women, the TV shows that will prompt social TV involvement vary by gender from sports to drama.

It’s dialogue marketing, not business as ussual

Overall, online advertising and marketing is far from a closed door with Millennials. Nevertheless, many of the attitudes we see here do imply that web marketing will often be more readily received if the online communication is a two-way street. Clearly, younger adults expect more of a dialogue than a classic Mad Men ad monologue of previous decades. Those in the 18-34s demographic see online as a way to stay in touch with brands: they can review and rate products, they can friend a non-profit, and they expect a response to their comments.

The future of online marketing and advertising is not business as usual. If we all wanted the advertising world to be business as usual, we would still be stuck in a world focused solely on buying classified newspaper ads, just as the ad business was back in the 18th Century. For online advertising to be much more accepted by the consumer, it has to become truly interactive every step of the way, and increasingly we need to recognize the online-marketing conversation most definitely works both ways.

Graeme Hutton is SVP, Group Partner, Research, at UM, part of the Interpublic Group.

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