U.S. Women and the Internet, Part 2

In my last column, I reviewed how U.S. women currently consume the Internet and, in particular, various online ads. Let’s delve a little deeper.

Separate studies by Starcom/Tacoda and JupiterResearch/Ipsos show that both men and women click on online ads fairly equally. Of those who click on ads, according to Starcom/Tacoda, 80 percent of clicks come from only 16 percent of online users. These so-called heavy clickers — defined as people who click on an ad four or more times per month — tend to range in age from 25 to 44, make below $40,000, and usually visit auctions, gambling, and career-service sites. They spend five times more time online than non-ad clickers.

The JupiterResearch/Ipsos study asked respondents, “Which of the following activities have you engaged in as a result of viewing advertising online in the past twelve months?” Women’s preferences tend toward entering sweepstakes, using search engines to find out more information about a product or service, purchasing a product or service online, playing a game online, or signing up for an e-mail newsletter.

My curiosity about how women respond to online ads led me, through my agency, to conduct my own survey. We tested our idea initially by using Vizu Power Polls (thanks to them for their help!), but then rolled out a full survey of our own. Enlisting the help of female-oriented networks and publishers like SheKnows, GreaterGood Network, and Allrecipes.com and through viral efforts of our own, we generated 1,681 completed surveys by females over the age of 18. The majority of our respondents (43 percent) classified themselves as full-time professionals with no kids or no kids at home. Of a wide variety of site types, the top favorites were community/social networking, shopping, cooking/recipe, entertainment/celebrities/music/video, national news, and travel.

When asked to describe the ads on their favorite sites, as opposed to selecting “informative,” “annoying,” “relevant, or “irrelevant,” the majority (37.2 percent) chose “neutral/I don’t care.” Regardless of their self-classification, our respondents were most likely to pay attention to an ad after 5 p.m., with the likelihood increasing after 8 p.m. When an ad gets their attention, 46.9 percent said it was an ad’s image that did so, compared with 33.8 for ad message/wording, 9.8 percent for ad interactivity, and 9.5 percent for ad location.

In terms of ads they found most useful, our respondents named graphical display ads their top choice (46.5 percent), followed by e-mail newsletter ads (22 percent), text ads (21.3 percent), and video ads (8.6 percent). Women disliked pop-up/-under ads; they only received 1.7 percent of the votes.

In what kinds of situations would women be more likely to pay attention and respond to online ads? According to our survey, content is still king: 55.9 percent selected “When I’m reading a newsletter or article and I want more information about the items or services mentioned,” and 54.4 percent selected “When I’m researching a product and get to the product detail page.” Apparently, despite the relevancy, female users don’t warm to the idea of ads within their social communities. Only 25.5 percent chose “When I’m on a community site and everyone is talking about a product or service that I want to learn more about.”

With all the concern about online advertising and the invasion of privacy, we sought our respondent’s opinions on the matter. Our findings support the perception of privacy invasion by online ads, with ads in Web mail (62.3 percent), ads that appear when mousing over a word in an article (40.8 percent), and ads that appear in instant messages (34.3 percent) deemed the most disconcerting.

We were also interested in knowing women’s opinions about their post-click landing page experience. Are advertisers making the most of the relatively few clicks they get? We asked, “When you click on an ad, how would you describe your experience on the page you are taken to?” Although the majority (54.1 percent) said it meets their expectation, 45.4 percent said the experience was disappointing, and only a fraction (0.4 percent) said the page exceeded their expectation.

When they get to a landing page, women don’t like pre-roll video or audio and prefer to control that experience (60.3 percent). Other suggestions included improving the offer’s visibility and shortening forms and page information.

We’ll be releasing the full results of our survey soon. Shoot me an e-mail if you want a copy.

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