Clutter Kills Online Advertising


In a society that likes to supersize its order, bigger sounds better. However, in the world of internet advertising, too many choices for online ad formats creates a barrier to the medium’s growth. Similarly, too many ads found online form another barrier.

This is a paradox, too, because in this hurting ad market, marketers spend fewer dollars and yet produce more ads as publishers drop prices.

“The current low cost of embedded advertising allows advertisers to take a buckshot approach: spray enough impressions out there and you’re bound to hit the right target,” reports Nielsen//NetRatings. The same low cost spurs publishers to add more ad space; Nielsen says that by June 2002, there was a 77% increase in inventory compared to a year earlier.

Further research from Nielsen shows that while the number of unique online ads hit a 16-month low in January 2002, at 52,530, by April it increased to 69,838, a 16-month high.

While more ads might appear like a good thing, clutter kills — advertising’s effectiveness, that is. A recent survey by Burst! Media of nearly 3,000 web users found that while 30% of respondents could tolerate up to two ads on a page, the limit for another 33% is only a single ad per web page.

When a web page surpassed the respondents’ ad limits, 36% told the Burlington, MA-based internet advertising network that they would immediately leave the site. “This finding is nearly identical for men and women, and for all income segments analyzed,” writes MediaPost. “Teens (13-17) are more likely than other age segments to abandon a site perceived as cluttered.”

Even more lost to the advertiser, in a way, than those who abandon a website are those users who remain on a site they consider cluttered, since 70% of them simply pay less attention to the ads. Worst of all, “58% of survey respondents said they have a less favorable opinion of an advertiser’s product or service when it appeared on a web page they perceived as cluttered.” That’s why Burst! Media concluded its survey by saying that “clutter is a hidden cost that will impact not only the effectiveness, but also the return on the media dollars you spend.” (segue)

By David Hallerman

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