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Most mobile ads annoying and ignored in UK, finds worrying YouGov study

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Advertising may be ubiquitous on smartphones across network operators but, according to new research from YouGov, British consumers grudgingly accept placements as part of their day-to-day mobile experience but consider them intrusive and tend to ignore them altogether.

The majority of smartphone users questioned (79%) believe that ads are intrusive. In addition to this only 5% think mobile ads are a good idea and welcome them. But most worryingly for advertisers is the general apathy smartphone users have toward ads, with the vast majority completely ignoring any kind of placement – 88% ignore ads on applications and 86% have ignored placements on the mobile internet.

Awareness of advertising on smartphones in the last three months, however, is high. Apple iPhone users and O2 and 3 customers are most likely to have seen ads – 46% of Apple users, 42% of O2 customers and 40% of 3 customers have received ad messages of some sort.

Preferred mobile ad formats
For smartphone users in particular, basic banners remain the most recognised formats –87% see them while browsing the mobile internet, and 80% while using apps. When browsing, recommended links to search (63%), rollover banners (51%), and special offers (47%), attract the most attention. While using apps it is sponsored apps and games (45%), recommendations linked to apps (44%) and a full screen ad before an app is activated (38%) that are the next most recognised by smartphone users.

Embedding ads into applications is the most effective way to get messages to smartphone users – with 33% of respondents recognising placements every time they use an app, and 19% recalling ads on apps they use daily. Not surprisingly, Apple and HTC users are most likely to have been reached given their high use of apps.

Text speak
Unsolicited text messaging, along with advertising on apps, is one of the main types of advertising or marketing smartphone owners have remembered receiving in the past three months, however they are not acted on by respondents. It is evenly high across operators – 64% of Orange, 57% of O2, and 56% of T-Mobile and the same proportion of Vodafone users have all received unsolicited texts from advertisers in the last three months. Only 33% of 3 customers have received unwelcome text messages. Despite the proportions of respondents who remember receiving unsolicited texts, 79% say that they generally receive these less often than once a month. When asked how they deal with these messages, 53% state that they ignore the message and delete it.

Active responses by smartphone users to ads remain very low. Few respondents click on a link in an ad – 6% from a text, 6% from an email, 4% from the mobile internet, 3% from an app, and 2% via an instant message. Even fewer users have bought a product or service as a result of advertising – 3% from a trusted text and 1% from advertising on an app. However some 27% of respondents agree that they would welcome more advertising if it offered money off deals or special offers. 21% agree that they do not mind ads as long as they are relevant to them.

“On the face of it, it looks very bleak indeed for mobile advertising with high consumer awareness, but equally high resentment, apathy and inaction,” says Adele Gritten, Head of Media Consulting at YouGov. “But the research shows that mobile ads really can provide brands with an effective vehicle to engage directly with audiences and drive actions.

Marketers need to harness the higher level of personal engagement that mobile users have with their handsets to provide them with something truly unique, relevant and interesting. In particular money off deals and special offers will appeal to consumers. Ad treatments must be more relevant and personal, and advertisers have to stop hoping that spam volume alone will drive response rates.”

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