Consumers less likely to trust Web ads: MPA

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A comparative media study sponsored by the Magazine Publishers of America suggests that while both magazines and the Internet serve similar roles as information providers, they differ widely in their advertising's ability to drum up audience trust.

"Media Choices 2000," conducted by Erdos & Morgan, compared the responses of more than 4,000 participants in a survey about their relationships to network and cable TV, the Internet, and magazines. It also studied the respondents' reactions to advertisements in those media.

MPA VP-Marketing Christine Miller said the organization has not conducted such a study for two years. Noting the Time Warner/AOL merger and society's warm embrace of the Internet, the MPA believed the timing was right to re-evaluate the roles of different media for the consumer.

"The media world has changed so quickly in the last year. We wanted to get a benchmark for ourselves and advertisers," she said.

Consumers are spending more time than ever with all forms of media, and tend to use multiple media at the same time, the study found. Nearly all the respondents, 90%, said they are spending the same amount or more time on the Internet as they did two years ago, while 74% of magazine readers, 75% of cable TV viewers and 62% of network TV viewers said that.

SPLIT ATTENTION

Although media use is up, consumers admit they do not give their full attention all the time. The average percent of time users spend paying "full attention" to cable TV was 60%, while network TV also receives just 60%.

In all, 73% of respondents admitted to reading a magazine while watching TV; 48% read a magazine and listened to the radio; 40% used a computer and listened to the radio; 27% used a computer and watched TV; 14% listened to the radio and watched TV; while 4% said they read a magazine and used a computer.

One of the key findings of the study was that magazines and the Internet, compared to network and cable TV, are considered good sources of personal and relevant information for the consumer. Thirty nine percent of respondents said magazines were most tailored to their individual needs, and 29% said the same for the Internet; 19% believed cable TV addressed such needs, while 13% said network TV most aptly addressed them. In response to a question about which medium contained information the consumer is most interested in, 35% of participants answered magazines, 30% the Internet, 20% cable TV, and 15% network TV.

Despite the similar roles of the Internet and magazines as information providers, the MPA was surprised at the poor performance of Internet ads in the study, according to Ms. Miller. "When asked about advertising on the Internet, consumers are telling us that time and again, it's still not a primary medium," she said.

While only 10% said they found Internet ads reliable, 43% of participants stated that they could usually trust and believe magazine ads; 32% found network TV ads reliable, while only 15% said the same for cable TV spots.

Moreover, the study showed that 30% of respondents usually ignored the advertising that appears on the Internet, and only 6% said they purchased a product directly as a result of Internet advertising. These figures differ sharply from magazine advertising, which was usually ignored by only 11%, and was credited by 44% as having a direct effect on purchases.

FORM ADS TAKE IS CRITICAL

Marissa Gluck, online advertising analyst for Jupiter Communications, agreed that magazines and the Internet are key information providers but she said she believes that online sources tend to be more comprehensive.

She was skeptical, however, toward the findings concerning Internet vs. magazine ads. "It depends on what form of advertising we're talking about," she said. "Consumers tend to ignore banner ads, but advertorials, e-mail, sponsored content, co-branded editorial [are] a lot less likely to be ignored than some forms of off-line advertising." The Internet is most amenable to the process of consumers doing research and then moving directly to the actual purchase, she noted.

Tom Johnson, senior partner-director of national print of Ford Motor Media, was not overwhelmed by the study's findings. But he does believe it helps to put in perspective the ever-growing presence of media in consumers' lives. "The study is helpful but it could go further in connecting [media use] with the purchase process."

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