Relevant Banners Reduce User Ire

Most people would find banner ads less annoying if they were more relevant to their interests or needs, according to a study released today by the Ponemon Institute.

The 2004 Survey on Internet Ads revealed that 66 percent of those surveyed would find relevant ads less annoying, and that 52 percent would be more likely to respond to a relevant banner ad.

“This really goes against the conventional wisdom and shows that it is the irrelevant content of ads rather than the ads themselves that consumers object to,” said Dr. Larry Ponemon, founder and chairman of Ponemon Institute, the Tucson, Ariz.-based information management research firm which conducted the study.

Marketers have always looked for ways to deliver more relevant advertising, and the latest tactics include behavioral marketing and contextual advertising. A recent Jupiter Research study found that behavioral marketing use was up 60 percent over last year, although only about 16 percent of advertisers used it as a campaign tactic in 2004.

Of the 1,054 usable survey responses in Ponemon’s study, nearly 60 percent of respondents said banner ads were “always annoying” — approaching the mid-60-percent response for spam and telemarketers. However, the majority indicated that they were unwilling to pay — either for ad blocking services or online content — to stop such ads.

“It shouldn’t be surprising that consumers’ economic interest outweigh their dislike of advertising,” Ponemon said.

The study also found that nearly half of the respondents, 45 percent, would give up some personal information if it meant they would receive more ads targeted to their individual interests. But the respondents also made it clear that they’d rather not give up any personally identifiable information (PII), with 55 percent saying they would be more likely to visit a site that used targeted ads without collecting PII.

“Ideally, consumers would like to not have any ads, but that’s an irrational option. Short of that, they’d like to see targeted ads without giving up personally identifiable information,” Ponemon said.

The results did show that online advertising was still effective, since 31 percent of respondents said they had responded to a product or promotional offer and 7 percent of respondents said that they had made a purchase or engaged in a service based on a banner ad, he said.

“Despite all the negativity, people admit that banner ads sometimes are of value,” he said.

The respondents would prefer not to leave the security of their personal data at the mercy of marketers’ good faith: sixty-nine percent said they would favor the use of privacy-enabling technology to prevent misuse of sensitive personal data, rather than third-party verification of “good” privacy practices.

The survey portion of the study consisted of a Web-based questionnaire given to individuals at least 18 years old who have daily access to the Internet either via a home computer, a business computer or both. The survey was co-sponsored by Chapell & Associates, a research and consulting firm focused on privacy marketing, and Revenue Science, a behavioral targeting firm. Ponemon is quick to point out that although Revenue Science engaged the Ponemon Institute to do the study, the company had no control over the research and made no attempts to bias th

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