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Study: Consumers Are Not Annoyed by Ads on Facebook

But They're Not Exactly Embracing Marketing on Social Media, Either

By Published on . 3

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Good news for Facebook: It turns out users find ads on social networks no more annoying than any other ads on the web.

According to a study from research firm Dynamic Logic, consumers view brand messages on social-media sites as comparable to those in online video, and are only slightly more annoying to internet users than search or banner ads.

While that's better news for Facebook, which has been embraced by blue-chip marketers such as Procter & Gamble, it's a bit of a backhanded compliment. Indeed, all web ads pale when stacked up to TV and print, which can claim twice the favorability among consumers, according to Dynamic Logic's Ad Reactions 2009 study.

Among 2,000 consumers surveyed in August 2009, 22% expressed a positive attitude toward ads on social media, the same as online video ads, compared with more than 40% favorable to print and TV ads. Consumers expect and tolerate ads in offline media in a way that they don't online.

"Those numbers are very low," said Steve Rubel, Edelman Digital's senior VP-director of insights, and an Ad Age contributor. "I don't think social-media ads are a long-term marketing vehicle. They are good for pushing people into a bigger brand platform like a Facebook page, but I don't think this will be a hugely dominant platform."

That said, attitudes about online advertising have held steady since 2007, while consumer's view of TV and print ads have fallen. Most dramatically, favorability for newspapers ads fell from 56% two years ago to 42%, while TV has gone from 50% to 47% and magazines 53% to 45%.

According to the survey, we are becoming a nation united by social media. As indicated by Facebook's claimed 350 million global users, 80% of respondents said they had visited a social site and 59% claimed to be active users of social networks.

And some are perfectly willing to interact with brands while they're there. Dynamic Logic said 13% claimed to follow brands on social networks. The categories that won the most followers are retail, consumer packaged goods and technology, in that order. Information about new products, sales and discounts are the primary reason people follow those categories, suggesting that utility and value are the main drivers for consumer affinity to brands on social sites.

Among social-media sites, Twitter looks to be the best distributor of information. The micro-blogging site beat out Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace in making internet users feel more informed about current events, pop culture and politics. Since joining Twitter, 75% of respondents felt more informed about current events, vs. the 45% that said the same for Facebook.

Shiv Singh, who leads global social media at digital agency Razorfish, agrees that useful tweets and alerts work for unknown brands, but that rule need not be applied to well-loved, culturally relevant brands.

"If a brand has a home in pop culture, social media doesn't need to be just utility-driven," he said, noting that many big brands known for their cultural influence, such as Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola Nike and Apple "don't have to depend on utilitarian social-media campaigns."

One campaign that has managed to bridge the utility-culturally relevant divide was Burger King's "Whopper Sacrifice" from ad agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky. The campaign asked Facebookers to ditch 10 friends for a free burger. And while it mimicked the social behavior of "friending," it layered on the value incentive of free food.

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