Psychological study shows hazard of online ad overkill

3rd Aug 2015

According to Statista, online advertising spend is set to surpass the $170 billion mark in 2015.

As a result of the continual rise in expenditure, consumers are being targeted with more and more adverts, and a psychological study conducted by Censuswide and Criteo has found that in some demographics, consumer patience is wearing thin.

Studying the attitudes and responses of over 2,000 adults in the UK, the research found only 40% of respondents between the ages of 16-34 feel ‘positive’ when they see an online advert and this reduces to just one in six for those aged over 55.  

When it comes to gender, men are more likely to almost instantly feel ‘extremely negative’ about ads, compared to less than 10% of women. A quarter only need to see an ad once to actively start disliking a brand. Whether it’s an ad for a company they recognise or not, consumers make snap judgements and know instantly if they love or hate that brand.     

The study also found colour and repetition play a key role in a users’ tolerance for online ads, with nearly a quarter of UK adults saying red makes them notice an online advertisement most. However, there is a clear gender split: 22% of women are more attracted to colour-rich advertisements compared to 15% men with purple creating the greatest divide.

Repetition, contrastingly, delivered mixed responses depending on peoples’ age. A third of adults (33%) said on average they need to see an advert up to five times before they start to feel positive about that company.  Young people are quicker to like a brand than older generations. 10% of 16-24 year olds only needing to see an advert once to feel positive, while a third of over 45’s take 2-5 times before an ad resonates positively.

“Colour is a powerful tool for persuasion. Red, for example, is the only colour that universally ignites an emotional and physiological response in people. It’s arousing, increases the heart rate, and in western culture is typically interpreted as a sign of good value,” says Nathalie Nahai, a web psychologist and author on the topic of online advertising.

“Subconsciously, we tend to rely on what’s immediately in our mind to drive our decision making. ‘Availability bias’, as it’s known, is a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that arise in a person's mind when evaluating a specific topic or decision.

“Tapping into that bias through emotionally arousing content, repetition and personalisation are vital for effective targeted advertising, but as consumers become more sophisticated about online tracking, brands need ensure they are handling their advertising with integrity and transparency.”

The research suggests online advertisers should 'change tactic' to focus their spend on better personalised adverts as opposed to larger quantities. 

A third of respondents who recalled seeing an ad carried on to do more research on the product/service or visited the website or app when it was personalised. More than any other age group, nearly a quarter of 25-34 year olds have made a purchase straight from an ad and would do it again. The good news is, 16-24 year olds feel online adverts are more relevant to them than one year ago. 

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