A recent study carried out by Harris Poll for Lithium Technologies has found that young adults, also known as millennials, are starting to get rather restless with targeted social media ads. These ads may be a pair of branded shoes that jump up on the side of your Facebook desktop, or a sponsored tweet on your Twitter feed. Out of 2,374 participants, the study showed 74% of those aged 20-39 were angered by these types of ads, and over half said it made them avoid social media all together! – Yes, you heard me correctly.
It seems as though the generation in question are tired of having online advertisements spammed across their social media platforms, and as a fellow millennial myself, I can’t help but agree.
However shocking the results of the study may seem, the research conducted by Harris Poll may not come as a great surprise to some. After a little Wonderland digging, it seems as though attitudes towards online advertising in general have been following a similar pattern for some time – a study conducted back in 2014 found that 18 to 34-year-olds were far more likely to ignore social media ads than they were with traditional TV, radio and newspaper ads. And it doesn’t appear to be looking any more hopeful for the future…
In addition to ads being blocked (and generally just scorned upon altogether), ‘banner blindness’, a phenomenon that has crept its way into the new millennium, highlights how online users were (and still are) becoming blind to the ads on social media. We took a quick look at the science behind it…
Using heatmaps and advanced eye tracking software, data can be analysed to monitor how much time a user spends looking at certain areas on a page. Red indicates where the most time is spent, yellow slightly less attention, followed by the least-viewed blue areas. Grey areas on these tests are where the page received no attention at all from the eye. It’s suggested that if you’re looking for something in particular, or are engrossed in an article, your brain will allow you to concentrate only on what you deem relevant.
The heatmaps used to test banner blindness show how anything resembling a ‘traditional’ static ad can be blocked out completely. Moreover, when users do engage with the ad, they often don’t even look at the advertisers’ name or logo! Although banner blindness originated in 1998, it is still just as relevant as it was 20 years ago. In January 2016, a study conducted by the research firm Lumen, recorded 30,000 minutes of data, relating to around 15,000 digital ads. Using the same eye tracking software, the study found that only 44% of ads shown to participants were actually seen.
So, as it would appear, even if we aren’t actively trying to get rid of ads with the use of blockers, our brain is blocking them for us – clever brain!
As is clear to see, online advertising is a nut that’s becoming harder and harder to crack, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. According to the same study, young adults and teens are more inclined than any other generation to trust ‘online communities’, ‘trusted blogs’ and even ‘celebrity endorsements’, more than traditional online ads. Now, without sounding sceptical, celebrity endorsed products and posts by influencers advocating certain brands sounds an awful lot like targeted advertising…but perhaps this says more about the type of advertising that the younger generation are gravitating towards.
A study released by HBS suggested that brands dealing with high-profile celebrities can generate up to $10 million in sales and see an increase of 0.25% in stock returns! And I won’t bother to mention how much some celebrities are charging for these endorsements, *sobs*. For high-end brands who can afford to pay astronomical prices to their endorsers, online advertising can be a breeze. It certainly pays to use a celebrity (and it pays to be a celebrity).
However, now more than ever, using an online blogger may be even more advantageous for advertising purposes compared to using celebs. Results from the Harris Poll study highlighted that although consumers are more likely to trust celebrities than traditional online ads, they are even more inclined to trust online bloggers. A separate study released in 2016 confirmed this theory, suggesting that 70% of millennials were more likely to trust from ‘non-celebrity’ bloggers, than celebrities (I guess Kim Kardashian doesn’t know everything after all).
Apart from recruiting the help of online bloggers and celebrity endorsers, another route is to move away from static and traditional content and introduce more ‘native’ content.
Native content is a form of disguised advertising, which attempts to blend itself into the platform upon which it appears. Instead of traditional static ads that may be picked up subconsciously (and ignored) by users due to their standout nature, native content attempts to camouflage itself in order to strangely attract more attention.
Native content also extends itself to high quality videos, sometimes with the intention to go viral as opposed to ‘selling the product’. This year Heineken Light reached 54% of their audience (35 million people) in just three days using a selection of comical video ads on Facebook. The clever people over at Heineken harvested the use of a humorous video and a celebrity endorser – which certainly paid off. Brand awareness grew by 11.7%, and ad recall grew by 7.6% in just three days.
There’s no question that video is a more engaging way to entice users to your services. However, rather unsurprisingly, many brands face the obstacle of costs. Producing high quality videos is considerably more expensive than your more generic static ads. Justifying the expense that goes into creating such an ad would certainly require a strong ROI which, of course, is never guaranteed. If the math doesn’t add up to clear-cut value and high returns, many businesses have no option but to get more creative with their methods of advertising.
It’s a tough time for advertising on social media, and it doesn’t appear to be getting any easier. So, establish exactly who your customers are, where they are, and what they’re responding to best. It’s a fierce market out there, so don’t be scared to shake things up and try to reach out to your customers in new ways.
Admin and Account Executive