Not All Ads are Created Equal

While consumers loath telemarketing and SPAM, they accept Web advertising nearly as much as they accept TV commercials and most welcome print advertisements.

These findings by Dynamic Logic add another layer to data released last week by the research company that Web viewers tolerate up to two pop-type ads per hour.

"While it is safe to assume that consumers, in general, do not want more advertising in their lives, they also understand the important role advertising plays in content, commerce, culture, and politics," says Christina Goodman, Dynamic Logic representative. "What is surprising is the breadth of feelings about different advertising formats. Clearly, this research shows there is a big difference between how consumers feel about Telemarketing (93 percent negative) versus Newspaper ads (6 percent negative)."

To sort through why consumers feel the way they do, Dynamic Logic examined six elements of advertising: intrusiveness, frequency, ad/edit ratio, clutter, targeting and creative.


At first glance, this AdReaction research might lead people to think that the more intrusive an ad is, the less consumers like it. Telemarketing, for example, is the most intrusive type of advertising and ranks at the bottom of the list. But TV and radio ads are mid to high on the consumer preference list even though they interrupt content for minutes at a time and cannot be closed (without TiVo-like technology). In fact, TV and radio spots are more popular with consumers than formats that take less time and can be quickly closed, skipped, or ended (Web, direct mail, telemarketing). Even Magazine and Newspaper advertising, which rate high on the list overall, often feature full-page ads that block content completely and must be dealt with (page turned).

In the case of the still forming Web advertising market, the transition from the laid-back banner to the bolder formats has irked many consumers while at the same time attracted many more traditional advertisers who were used to more traditional -- intrusive -- units. "So perhaps intrusiveness, by itself, is not the issue," says Goodman. "Rather, it may have more to do with the media conditioning or level of advertising people are accustomed to in a specific format."

Or, it may have more to do with the other five factors.


Overplayed advertising can quickly become grating. According to Dynamic Logic, some of the most highly rated ad formats in the AdReaction research list have the best frequency controls. For example, you are not likely to see the same ad in one issue of a magazine or a newspaper. Yet you might see it a few times during a TV show or a Web site visit. And you might get many calls or pieces of mail on the same offer because of bad list management.

Lack of control can make good advertising formats seem flawed. Web advertising has been forced to a defensive position over the last year by a confluence of events: 1) the effectiveness of larger intrusive formats has made them highly sought after and over-sold; 2) a lack of user-based frequency caps (as opposed to publisher-based) has led to over exposure; and 3) some bad apples have taken over many people’s computers unknowingly through technical deception and blasted them with ads. This has poisoned the waters for certain people -- just at the time when online advertising was starting to come back.

Even though an hour of television probably has more intrusive ads than an hour of Web surfing, the frequency is more controlled in television. Moreover, TV ads are typically blocked together at strategic times during the content. Web advertising is starting to employ better frequency controls and putting ads in at appropriate times (like in-between pages).

Ad/Edit Ratios

Although the AdReaction survey seems to show that the higher the ad/edit ratio, the lower the consumer preference, this isn't always the case. Clearly, telemarketing, direct mail and spam are, basically, 100 percent advertising with little to no “editorial” and are least preferred by consumers. But Google, like the Super Bowl or a bridal magazine, is a place where many consumers go to in large part for the ads, demonstrating that just because something has a lot of advertising does not make it inherently unpopular.


Dynamic Logic (along with Ogilvy, iVillage and MediaMetrix) collaborated on Web ad clutter research in 2001 and found that perceived clutter does, in fact, reduce ad impact, but what “feels cluttered” will vary person to person. Web sites, like newspapers and magazines, can have many little ads that decorate the pages or a few big ads that are dominant. This depends on the company and even the section. But why does advertising for newspapers and magazines in general rate higher than Web advertising? Perhaps it goes back to frequency.


Consumers appreciate advertising that is more relevant than less relevant, but targeting alone does not seem to determine the popularity of an ad medium. Some of the most targeted (and very effective) forms of advertising are telemarketing and direct mail, yet they are lowest on the popularity list. Web advertising can also be very targeted, but overall, it is still in the middle of the pack. Less targeted are TV, outdoor and newspaper, yet they are higher on the preference list.

Magazines, perhaps by their nature, allow for targeting to specific affinity groups -- but the ability to target doesn’t appear to be a key driver for ad format preference among consumers.


Perhaps the most illusive capability of any advertising is good creative. There can be powerful direct mail pieces, beautiful magazine ads, funny radio ads, and moving TV ads. But those are gems in the rough of a lot of bad ads and noise, it seems. The ad formats found at the top of the AdReaction consumer preference list are those formats that lend themselves well to entertaining consumers (TV or radio), are visually compelling (magazines), or gave consumers specific, timely, “news-like” information they needed at the right time (newspaper and outdoor). Good creative knows its purpose and delivers.

Consumers will remember a lot of brands from a lot of advertising, but they will look more fondly on a medium overall that can deliver quality creative.

"For Web advertising, this research has many lessons," says Goodman. "It is interesting to see that it falls next to TV on the consumer preference list. But it still has a way to go to be seen more favorably by consumers overall."

Dynamic Logic's advice: Long-term, Web publishers may want to consider an ad/edit ratio and strategic commercial slots that fit better into end user surfing habits. Short-term, frequency caps and better creative will allow consumers to enjoy the medium more.