UK Net users ‘fight shy of banner advertising’

Report reveals time pressure and high charges are driving the British away from display ads – but they are willing to pay a premium for tailored content

UK Internet surfers are significantly more resistant to advertising on the Net compared with their US counterparts, according to Henley Centre research.

Results from the consultancy’s Media Futures 97 report show the majority of British Net surfers claim rarely to pay attention to banner (display) ads on the Internet, and are far less likely to respond to ads inviting surfers to “click on” and visit advertisers’ own Websites.

The research was conducted among 500 active Internet users in both the UK and US. Report authors Miriam Mulcahy and Siân Davies suggest that, while there is little resistance to the increased commercialisation of the Internet among UK users, Net banner ads may continue to be less effective in the UK.

Time pressure on work-based Net surfers, the higher costs of domestic phone charges in the UK, and the continuing “US-bias” of ads at popular Websites are the key factors in driving up UK resistance to Net-based advertising.

“UK Internet users are far more goal-driven in what they want when they are accessing the Internet,” says Mulcahy. She cites pressure to curtail access time at work and at home as the reason for UK surfers being far less inclined to be distracted by prompts. But the survey does suggest that British Net users are more willing to pay a premium for relevant tailored content delivered by the Web compared with their US counterparts.

There is evidence that UK surfers are as enthusiastic as their US counterparts in buying a variety of goods, ranging from holidays, books, shares and groceries over the Internet.

“Rather than relying on advertising, Internet content providers, particularly those geared towards the UK business community, may be able to charge a subscription for access,” says Davies.

But the authors strike a note of caution: “The levels of investment required for a site, plus the shortcomings of the Web in terms of speed and quality of access, have led to signs of a backlash or ‘Weblash’ by marketers rethinking the levels of justifiable expenditure on the Web,” says Davies.

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