September 04, 2011

Internet users are no strangers to online advertising. From static search ads to dynamic homepage takeovers and games, consumers encounter ads daily.

Though exposure doesn’t always result in user action, findings from CrowdScience showed more than half of internet users worldwide clicked on some form of online advertising in the past six months.

Click activity appeared to increase with age: 76% of internet users ages 55 and over had clicked on an ad, compared to 58% of online consumers ages 15 to 24.

But lack of click activity does not equate to lack of influence. In fact, more than three-quarters of users ages 25 to 54 had taken actions such as performing a search or visiting a company website after viewing an ad.

Because ads are as likely to influence users as they are to incite click activity, advertisers—especially display advertisers—should be particularly mindful of their ability to attribute ad-initiated behavior to the ad of origin.

Consumers most often clicked on ads that either made them interested in considering a product or showed them products already of interest, illustrating the importance of maintaining brand presence throughout the purchase funnel.

The reasons for not clicking on ads varied by age and gender, but the majority of users who declined to click did so based on perceived lack of ad trust or relevancy.

Users ages 25 to 44 were the least trusting: 18% didn’t trust online ads in general, and 24% feared getting a computer virus from clicking on ads. These users were also less likely to want to disrupt their online experience by clicking on an ad and navigating away from a page. Disruption of user experience was significantly more important to men than women.

Both users ages 25 to 44 and users ages 44 to 54 were significantly more likely to mistrust ads than those ages 55 and up. Most consumers 55 years and older did not click on ads predominantly for fear of viruses, spam or for lack of desire to navigate off page.

Both the oldest and youngest user groups were significantly more likely to report online ads going unnoticed. This was especially true for consumers ages 15 to 24, perhaps pointing to a generation somewhat desensitized to the effects of online advertising.

Overall, advertisers that are able to ensure relevancy have much to gain. But it appears the industry also has much to gain by better fostering consumer-advertiser trust.

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