Advertising Age's second annual survey of 1,000 U.S. adults found 31.4% said they were aware of the term "interactive media," up from just 19.1% last year. It's a concept that's more familiar to men than women: 37.9% of the former vs. 25.5% of the latter; more in step with the young than the old; and more in keeping with the pocketbooks of the wealthy.
But marketers have a long way to go to convince consumers advertising has a place in interactive media. Only 29.1% of respondents said interactive services at home should include advertising.
"It seems people are receptive to the idea [of interactive media] and there's some enthusiasm around it, but no one can figure out the knock-'em-dead applications. Nobody's really broken through on the demand side and clearly understands what consumers cannot do without," said Tom Mularz, account group manager at Market Facts' Telenation research service, which conducted the survey for Ad Age.
The study found that 37.7% of consumers ages 18 to 24 know about the concept of interactive media. Among those ages 55 to 64, awareness slips to 23.3%. And of those 65-plus, it's just 12.2%.
Likewise, people with higher incomes are more likely to know about interactive media: More than 46% of those with household incomes of $40,000 or more are aware of it, compared with 12.1% of those making $25,000 to $40,000.
The telephone survey was conducted Sept. 9-11 this year and Sept. 10-12 last year. It has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
The bad news for marketers is that consumers are very skeptical of advertising.
Those in younger age brackets are less hostile to the idea, with 53.7% of 18-to-24-year-olds saying ads don't have a place in interactive media. But the figure rises to 72.4% of those ages 55 to 64 and 68.4% of those 65 and up.
In terms of the acceptability of advertising on interactive services, nearly half of respondents said advertising on home interactive services is not at all acceptable, 43.6% said it's somewhat acceptable and only 5.1% said it's very acceptable.
However, those who said advertising is somewhat or totally unacceptable softened to the concept when prodded. For example, 59.5% said they would be more accepting of advertising on interactive services if it lowered monthly fees; 57.2% would be more accepting if it allowed them to choose which advertisements they wanted to see and when; and 58.8% were more accepting if advertising allowed them to get more in-depth information from marketers.
While awareness of the concept of interactive media is growing, demand is slipping in some cases.
Last year, the most often cited applications for interactive media were on-demand movies or TV programs, with 55.4% of respondents saying they would be interested in that service, and educational children's shows, cited by 47.7%.
This year, those applications still were cited most often, but the number of people interested in them decreased: to 45% for on-demand programming and 40.7% for educational children's shows.
"It's surprising," Mr. Mularz said. "I would have thought on-demand movies in particular would be higher this year, given that consumers are more educated about them."
Interest fell for applications like travel information and reservations, home participation in TV game shows and predicting plays during live sporting events. But consumers this year said they were more interested in electronic mail, videogames, online services and home shopping applications.
Consumers also said they'd be more interested in getting interactive services over their home computer than their TV sets.
Of those who own a computer, 46% said they were very interested or somewhat interested, compared with 34.3% interested in receiving such services through their TV.
"There's a little bit more receptivity to the concept," said Mr. Mularz. "Fewer people are saying they're absolutely not at all interested. It means continued communications and marketing will be better received over time."
Not surprisingly, reluctance to accept interactive services increases with age: While 85.7% of people ages 65 and older said they see no need for interactive media services on their home TV, less than half of 18-to-24-year-olds-47.1%-felt that way.
Awareness and interest aside, costs are more of a factor for consumers this year than last.
The fact is, most consumers still don't want to open their wallets for interactive media.
In surveys both years, about 58% of respondents said they would not pay to get interactive media services delivered to the home.
But this year, the price point is even lower: In the 1993 survey, 21.5% of respondents said they would pay $50 or more in monthly fees; this year, those willing to pay that high-price point slipped to 17.7%. That can be attributed in part, Mr. Mularz said, to higher awareness. As familiarity with the concept grows, the novelty wears off and consumers expect the price to go down.