Study: Ad-Heavy Sites Spur Consumer Ire

In recent years, many Web publishers have struggled to cope with the downturn in advertising prices by deploying more and more ads per page. But the strategy might be counterproductive and actually drive traffic away, according to a new study by BURST! Media.

The Boston-based ad network said that a recent survey of 3,000 Web surfers found that generally, users accept advertising on the Internet. However, 63 percent said they wouldn’t tolerate more than two ads per page. About 33 percent said they tolerated two ads per page, while another third said they could tolerate only a single ad.

About 36 percent said they would immediately leave a site if they felt it was “cluttered” with advertising. Teens, especially, said they are more likely than other segments to abandon a site they perceive as cluttered.

About 70 percent of respondents that said they remain on a site they feel is cluttered, said they pay less attention to the ads.

The study also found that 58 percent of respondents said they had a less favorable opinion of an advertisers’ product or service when it appeared in advertising on a Web page they perceived as cluttered. More than half of that group said they found the advertisers “much less favorable.”

The news contributes to the mounting research and anecdotal evidence suggesting that consumers might be reaching their fill of increasingly intrusive Web advertising. In January, Dynamic Logic and iVillage fielded a similar study that ad recall suffered when consumers visited sites they described as cluttered.

In July, iVillage said it would cease running pop-up ads based on what it said were survey results that indicated users found them to be the most frustrating feature of the Web.

The moves come as impressions continue to reach all-time highs. In May, Nielsen//NetRatings reported that monthly online ad impressions had grown 77 percent, from 53.2 billion a year earlier. In the U.S., the online population grew only about 3 percent during the same timespan, while registered domain names — useful as a measure of Web sites — have decreased 11.7 percent to about 27 million, according to the Zooknic Internet Geography Project.

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