Internet Advertisements Less Enjoyable Than Other Ads, Survey Shows

March 02, 1998

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- With few exceptions, Internet advertising isn't very amusing. That's the consensus of U.S. Internet users recently surveyed about their attitudes toward Internet advertising.

The new study -- one of the first of its kind -- finds that consumers think Internet advertising is a lot more informative (62 percent) and trustworthy (48 percent) than it is entertaining (38 percent).

Enjoyment "appears to be one of Internet advertising's weakest features," says Sharon Shavitt, one of the researchers and authors of the study, "Survey of Attitudes Toward Internet Advertising: A Comparison With Advertising in General."

Shavitt, a professor of advertising at the University of Illinois, speculates that the low entertainment rating for Internet or Web advertising is a result of advertisers putting little emphasis on "features that engage consumers," such as role-playing and interactivity. Since consumers report that the enjoyment of looking at ads contributes most to their attitudes toward Web advertising, online businesses "would be wise to invest in creating sites that consumers enjoy viewing, just as they invest in creating traditional advertisements that are enjoyable," wrote Shavitt and colleagues Ann Schlosser and Alaina Kanfer, researchers at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

While still in its infancy, Web advertising revenue is soaring. Having net $1 billion in 1997, revenue from Internet advertising is expected to hit $7.7 billion by 2002.

Although only 38 percent of the sample said they like Internet advertising, the climate for Internet advertising is quite good, Shavitt said. More Internet consumers (42 percent) feel comfortable purchasing from a phone number listed in Internet advertising than does a similar sample (34 percent) feel about general advertising. Far fewer (28 percent) felt that Internet advertising increases product prices compared with respondents' perceptions of general advertising (73 percent).

Fewer respondents felt insulted (54 percent), offended (29) and misled (33) by Internet ads (compared with 46, 48 and 67 percent, respectively, for general advertising). Perhaps because consumers often play an active role in selecting the advertisements they view, they feel that Internet advertising content is more appropriate and suited to their needs.

The study results, the researchers wrote, "are consistent with previous speculation that the interactive 'pull' nature of Internet advertising makes it less irritating to consumers than the 'push' nature of general advertising." Efforts to employ so-called push technology to Internet advertising "might increase consumers' feeling of discontent toward Internet advertising," they wrote.

The researchers surveyed a national sample of more than 400 people about advertising on the Internet, then compared their responses to a national sample of more than 1,000 people who were asked similar questions regarding advertising in general. People ages 18 to 64 were surveyed by phone.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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