What do you think of it? Annoying? Effective? Come a long way? Waste of money? Don't even notice it?
And when you're answering, are you answering as a marketer, or as a consumer? Or (gasp) both? Some of us do fall into both buckets, after all.
Adobe set out to answer some of these very questions in their recent report, The State of Online Advertising. In their research, Adobe partnered with Edelmen Berland to survey 1,250 adults over age 18 -- 1,000 were part of the general population, and 250 were marketing decision makers. They asked the survey respondents questions about advertising, and sometimes even marketing, trying to get a gauge on things like channel effectiveness, preferences, and just gut feelings. Hey, make fun of those warm and fuzzy feelings all you want, but putting some numbers behind them is a mighty task worth attempting!
Take a look at some of the most fascinating highlights from their study on online advertising; and I encourage you to take notice of how the discrepancies between consumers' and marketers' opinions play out, too. It's always good and sobering to take off your marketer hat and remember how your target audience actually perceives the work you do.
The State of Online Advertising, According to Adobe
1) In general, how do consumers "feel" about online advertising?
When you compare marketers' opinions of online advertising to consumers', it seems they're in a slight state of denial, eh? The opinions with a negative sentiment do follow the same general trend, though -- probably a good reminder that marketers often have a higher tolerance for online advertising because we're "in the biz." So remember, what mildly annoys us might make consumers outright cringe.
2) So, what's a better alternative to online advertising? You might never guess it, but ...
TV ads?! This is based on consumers' and marketers' opinions, of course. Data may suggest otherwise for your industry. For HubSpot, for instance, online advertising is a much more efficient advertising expenditure than television ads. As the infomercials say, "your results may vary."
3) Actually, traditional media is overwhelmingly the preferred place to view advertising.
This data should be considered alongside the fact that only 31% of consumers reported enjoying reading and viewing advertisements. So this chart is really more along the lines of "where most people find viewing ads the least disagreeable." That being said, it makes sense that consumers would prefer to view advertisements -- a more traditional means of getting a brand's message across -- on traditional channels. You know, the places they're used to seeing them.
4) But consumers' preferences for "traditional" channels aren't limited to advertising. They seem to prefer more traditional channels for marketing and advertising.
Well, sort of. In my opinion, it's a tad misleading to group marketing and advertising in with one another for some of these channels -- social media makes sense, for instance, because it's very clear how one can market and/or advertise on social channels; there's organic updates, and paid updates. Boom. Cut and dry.
But newspapers as a marketing channel? That's a little more gray -- unless you receive coverage in a printed story, isn't the only other alternative just ... plain advertisements?
I am excited to see the preference for things like consumer forums and friends, family, and coworkers, which are considered "traditional media" in this study. Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful tool, one that social media and organic search marketers have a natural tendency to reap benefits from. Keep on keepin' on, guys and gals!
5) In fact, user-generated content is a pretty hot commodity.
This is one where marketers are on par with the trend, and I couldn't be more excited about it. (Although, marketers, that huge comparative differential we're citing in the value of "marketer created ads" is a little concerning.) I'm glad to see marketers recognizing the incredible power of user-generated content. It's something we all inherently know; a third-party endorsement means more than someone just saying they're awesome. How non-partisan is that, right? But user-generated marketing also helps with those oft-suffered content shortages. If you have a network of leads, customers, and partners eager to create content for you, you're probably tickled pink!
6) So it makes sense that consumers and marketers are into social media as a marketing and/or advertising channel, too.
If marketers and consumers alike are hot on user-generated content, it's only natural we're fostering presences on social media sites, and consumers are liking them. Although I must be honest, I find the numbers in the "no" column a little low considering the billions of people on Facebook today. However, despite the use of the terminology "Like" in this survey question, they also kept the specific social network ambiguous, never mentioning Facebook by name.
And for a little entertainment -- many people, unsurprisingly, still like a little social media flaming. This is not surprise; we've all known for some time that the anonymity of the internet helps people say some things they typically wouldn't say face-to-face.
7) So, does that social sentiment translate into any other actions?
While social reach is fantastic, we all know that reach doesn't put food on the table. So while the action of 'Liking' a brand on social media results in no action for 35% of respondents, many more still proceeded to check out the product their friend liked, or visit the brand's website or social media page. That's pretty awesome! And while only 2% of people purchased the product, we all know that marketing takes a funnel (or funnel-like) shape. A social media interaction is just one step in the process or becoming a life-long customer!
8) Ultimately, it's more about value than channel. Marketers and advertisers that can tell a story will be the most successful.
But you already knew that. Can you tell a story? Does your marketing resonate with your audience? Are you using the right content format? Are you providing value?
The cool thing about marketing these days is, the cream of the crop tends to rise to the top. Now, that's not to say those with more resources don't have an easier time of it; and of course those with less time, money, employees, what have you, will have to put in some more elbow grease to get noticed. But super powers like Google (Panda updates) and Facebook (EdgeRank algorithm) are continuing to make changes that help excellent content creators -- the ones that do a lot of the things at the beginning of that graph up there -- get more visibility. However you feel about online advertising, it's certainly heartening to know that quality content is the muscle behind it all.