Blend in with the scene to get maximum ad stand-out


Social media sites may offer serious reach but research shows that ads on these sites are being largely ignored. Choosing sites with content relevant to your product is the best way to get clickthrough.

It seems that marketers can’t get enough of social media. Brands have been falling over each other to set up a Facebook page and capitalise on its high volume of traffic by advertising alongside user profiles, while filling Twitter feeds with their latest product news.

However, some of this activity may be futile according to sales house Addvantage Media’s 2011 online advertising report, shown exclusively to Marketing Week. It reveals that 79% of consumers claim rarely or never to pay attention to advertising on social networks. Addvantage Media managing partner Edward Tijdink says that rather than getting overexcited about social media, marketers should use a broad range of platforms to communicate with consumers.

“We see social networks dominating the market – a lot of budget is being allocated to them from what we see. There is a benefit to using these sites, but applying them as an [information] tool just like any other online media is not right.

“Social media is more of a communication than an information tool – it’s a different beast, with a different kind of purpose. It’s a private communication tool where people don’t want to be faced with traditional advertising. For marketers, that means looking for different ways to engage with users on social networks,” he says.

In the previous year’s report, 68% of consumers claimed not to take notice of ads on social networks, so it seems their tolerance is getting worse.

“If you look at online in the UK, it’s very much an extension of direct marketing. It’s all about reach over relevance. While networks such as Facebook have a vast reach, the fact is it’s still very difficult to deliver genuinely personalised ads on these platforms,” claims Tijdink.

He says it is difficult to predict the content that people will want to engage with on Facebook. “Unlike sites dedicated to specific topics, which attract people interested in those subjects, Facebook only bases ads on cookies (which store information about a user’s internet journey) and limited, often ironic profile information,” he says.

The research, conducted by Maximiles for Addvantage Media, shows that more than half of consumers are more likely to be influenced by adverts directly related to the content of the site they’re visiting and nearly one in three by relevant ads on special interest sites, dedicated to their particular hobbies or interests.

“Marketing is all about getting the right message in front of the right people at the right time. That is when consumers are susceptible to messages. That is also why relevant ads in a relevant environment make more sense and result in higher engagement levels.

“Whatever the product being promoted, online advertisers need to consider the mindset of the consumer and be sure that the ads served clearly match their brand and content expectations,” says Tijdink.

Special offers shown in online advertising are most likely to get click-through and purchase, according to the report. More than 50% say they respond to deals. However, 32% say it is the fact that the ad relates directly to the content of an article or video. “Apart from the actual offer, the sheer presence and authority of the source website is such an important factor in people engaging or not engaging, buying or not buying. There’s something emotional and psychological going on there,” he says.

The next most influential factors on whether consumers click through are an eye-catching ad (10%), the size of the ad on the page, and whether it is animated, both scoring 3%. Tijdink feels online campaigns need to be more imaginative to capture people’s attention.

“If you have a look at the usual ads you see on websites, they are often very boring. Six or seven years ago [online advertising formats such as] overlays and eyeblasters [a free-moving ad with sound] became popular, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen one. On the other hand, if I go to a continental European site, even the most basic of news websites will have them,” he says.

The factors that encourage response on special interest outlets correlate with the emotional connection and trust consumers feel with these websites. Over 60% of consumers claim to feel more of a personal connection to niche or special interest sites than more generic websites. Trust in these sites as a source of information scores highly with 65% agreeing to this, and 54% agree to the fact that they find the content regularly engaging and entertaining.

This trend is especially prevalent among men, with 67% feeling more of a personal connection with a niche site that they visit regularly, than with larger portals such as MSN, compared with 56% of women.

“Unlike larger, more generic websites, the regular audience of a special-interest site will typically have a greater affinity with the feel and content of that site. Understanding these audiences and the nature of the affinity can enable advertisers to create brand affiliations,” explains Tijdink.

The research reveals the importance of a multi-channel approach for advertisers, with over half of those surveyed saying they are more likely to click onto an online ad for a product they are interested in if they have already seen it on a TV ad. This figure is over 40% if they have already read about the product in a magazine or newspaper review.

“If you look at marketing communications and how people make decisions, they are influenced by an awful lot of things. Offline influences online decisions and vice versa. People are exposed to so many marketing messages from so many sources that it is too simple to judge the success of a campaign simply on the last cookie that has been dropped on a user’s PC,” explains Tijdink.

So to get optimum levels of engagement and enjoy campaign success, marketers need to know their customers and when and where to talk them. Tijdink says: “To genuinely connect to customers with the right message at the right time, it’s essential to take a strategic view of placement. If you know where your target audience is browsing, understand why they’re there and plan campaigns accordingly. Common sense dictates you will see better results.”

the frontline



Stevie Spring

Chief executive

Online advertising strategy is exactly the same as in analogue media. If you look at magazines, advertising is part of the package. If I’m reading Vogue, I expect to see ads for bags, shoes and clothes. What we call endemic advertising, or ads that fit the environment, is part and parcel of the offer. You go to niche or specialist media because you expect comprehensive coverage.

As with offline, online marketing is about engagement and length of time – a more important metric than reach. The nirvana of media planning is affordable, engaged reach. But the engagement metric is the one that’s hardest to define. It’s much more obvious when you’re looking at a specialist site because the engagement comes out of the amount of time someone spends on it, how often they go there, whether they trust it and would recommend it, and if they expect advertising to be a part of it. Those things are predictors of engagement.

When people are on a social networking site, they’re in communication mode, not in search or leisure or ’watch a film’ mode. An ad here can be a bit like interrupting a phone call. It’s rude. You don’t have permission.

We run a study called Engagement Counts, which both counts engagement and makes the point that it is the most important thing when you’re trying to get action. Action depends on all sorts of things, it’s not just final-click purchase.

A lot of what we are doing is influencing influencers. On our gaming websites, for example, the ’hardcore gamers’ who are regular and frequent visitors are the people who want to know everything about the latest game or the latest hardware. They’re also the ones who people go to for advice, so the pyramid of influencing influencers is very important.


John Evans

Chief executive
Incahoot (group buying site for utilities)

It’s quite common that people don’t pay attention to the ads they see online but Facebook is one of our most cost-effective channels and it sees the highest response rates. The 20% or so who do pay attention to ads here, according to the research, must react really well to those ads they see.

Incahoot is about community; the more people we get, the better we are together. Facebook is the perfect place to be because that’s about community too.

Increasingly, we will target money advice sites. We’re about offering value saving opportunities. We will also attack the property sites because when people are moving house, they review their suppliers for utilities, telecoms and may need new broadband fitting. That’s a classic audience for us.

We will also have quite an active emailing and newsletter policy for our members, but finding the right level of interval to remind them of new offers that we’ve got and blend that with a whole range of online advertising is important.

Overall, I agree with the research – if you advertise somewhere relevant, you should get a better conversion rate. The more times you see an advert, the more likely you are to react to it. That’s why you need to structure your online marketing and brand awareness channels and focus on indirect response channels.


Nicholas Cope

Founder (social networking site)

Ads on social networking sites don’t have the impact that they used to. But the research is encouraging: 21% of consumers responding to this type of advertising is still considerable.

Our site has a members’ section where all members are listed. Users can then filter by gender and/or age. They can also filter by country and lifestyle interests.

I run banner advertising that is geared to the content of the page. If a person is into outdoor pursuits, for example, and they like fishing, then relevant adverts should come up when that person visits their profile. If you’ve got an advert relevant to the person and it has been shown quite a few times, then it’s more likely to sink in. As a result, it’s more likely to be clicked on and responded to.



79% of consumers claim rarely or never to pay attention to advertising on social networks, up from 68% last year
54% of consumers are more likely to be influenced by advertising that is directly linked to the content of the website they are visiting
62% of consumers feel more of a personal connection to niche or special interest sites than more generic websites



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