Is advertising proving irresistible?

Fears that consumers are resisting advertisements are common within the industry, but research suggests that reports of the marketing world’s demise may be exaggerated

There have long been fears in the marketing world that consumers are resisting advertising messages more than ever before. Indeed, there are growing concerns that resistance to marketing is now the norm, rather than the exception.

Consumer research company QuickWise has conducted a report on UK consumers’ attitudes to-wards advertising. The research looks at what kind of advertising consumers would like to see and conversely what kind annoys them. The results make positive reading for the industry. The research shows that traditional advertising, such as broadcast advertising, which consumers can easily ignore, is still working, but forms of marketing such as below-the-line advertising are unpopular.

More than half of the respondents, at 55 per cent, say that even if they had the opportunity to avoid advertising and marketing messages they would still be happy to engage with them. However, the report also shows that 75 per cent of consumers still claim to enjoy a good advertisement. Encouragingly, 68 per cent do not agree that marketing is out of control and 51 per cent of respondents believe that it is possible to get useful ideas from ads.

The report shows that 50 per cent of UK consumers’ buying decisions are influenced by what they see in television advertising, 49 per cent cite websites as an influence and 43 per cent of people surveyed claimed that point-of- purchase material can sway their decision. On the other hand, the channels that have the least impact are telemarketing, which was cited by 14 per cent, while only ten per cent mentioned spam.

There is very strong feeling among consumers towards spam and cold calling, with 60 per cent of respondents saying that such advertising has become increasingly pushy or intrusive. Indeed, the report shows that 16 per cent of consumers would like less or no spam, 12 per cent would like less or no junk mail and ten per cent less or no telemarketing.

This is supported by eight per cent of respondents calling for more government regulations against companies that use spam and cold calling, despite the introduction of the European Union Directive on Data Privacy and Electronic Communications last October. It introduced restrictions on e-mail marketing and a move towards permission-based electronic marketing, which is expected to be introduced for SMS marketing as well.

In terms of more traditional marketing, TV advertising fared much better, with 80 per cent of respondents saying that they do not change channels as soon as ads are shown. Consumers are also happy to accept advertising through radio, cinema and websites.

The report shows that when it comes to children, respondents have very strong feelings, with 78 per cent believing that it is inappropriate to advertise directly to them. The age of children does make a different to such attitudes, with 94 per cent against advertising to pre-school/nursery children and 81 per cent against it for primary/secondary children. This figure drops to 25 per cent for children aged 16 years old.

Consumers in the UK are savvy when it comes to making purchases, with 79 per cent saying that they do look for sale items and 66 per cent claiming they read product reviews before buying. This highlights the increasing importance of the internet to consumers, although it seems that marketers have yet to find the magic formula for using it effectively for advertising. Corporate websites can be a very powerful tool if they can attract consumers from offline, rather than using spam or pop-ups.

An increasing number of consumers are becoming more confident with new sales channels such as interactive TV. The report found that 24 per cent of respondents claim to have made a purchase in this way.

As consumers can now access TV programmes without having to watch advertising, through hard-disc recorders for example, this area poses interesting questions for the future of traditional advertising. QuickWise asked respondents which products or services they would choose to see advertised on TV. The data shows 55 per cent of respondents would be happy to receive ads on music, 54 per cent for food and drinks and 52 per cent for retailers.

However, some areas do lose out, with only 14 per cent saying that they would be want to continue receiving ads for financial services. This presents financial services with an interesting dilemma as the sector invests significant amounts of money in marketing. Furniture advertisements are similarly unpopular, with just 19 per cent happy to continue watching them.

The report also questioned respondents on which brands they perceive as behaving responsibly through their advertising. Food retailers scored the highest with Asda and Tesco being named by 56 per cent and 54 per cent respectively. Perhaps unsurprisingly, McDonald’s, Mars and Coca-Cola scored the lowest marks with 16 per cent, 17 per cent and 30 per cent of respondents agreeing to each.

QuickWise’s research shows that UK consumers enjoy good creative advertising, but there are widespread concerns that brands are irresponsible through their advertising, particularly to children. There is also a very negative response to below-the-line activity, which in the long term could turn consumers off more traditional methods of advertising if it becomes too intrusive. l

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