Exclusive survey: Ad intrusion up, say consumers

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A whopping 75% of U.S. consumers believe that advertising intrusion into content has increased over the past year-and many find it a distraction, according to an exclusive Advertising Age survey.

The online poll, conducted by WPP's Lightspeed Research, found that consumers of all ages felt that the line between advertising and TV programs had become increasingly fuzzy.

The result of the survey might surprise advertisers ramping up product-integration initiatives as new technologies such as TiVo and other personal-video recorders make it easier for viewers to zap traditional 30-second spots.

When consumers were asked whether they found product placement and integration and other new genres, such as online ad films, entertaining or distracting, 62% said they were distracting, with only 38% finding them entertaining. In a separate question, the majority, 72%, said the new genre was too pervasive, though consumers in the prime advertiser demographic of ages 18 to 34 were receptive: 46% of that group find it entertaining and 35% say it's not pervasive enough.

"It's gratifying that consumers understand that advertising and editorial [are] merging," said Jeff Chester, executive director at the Center for Digital Democracy. The study is "fertile ground for the industry to clean up its act."

However, respondents to the online poll were almost evenly split about whether advertisers influencing content was good or bad. A full 52% thought it was something that should cause worry; 48% did not.

Patti Ganguzza, president of New York's AIM Productions, who placed Post's Honeycomb Cereal in "The Sopranos," said consumers were no doubt more aware of product placement and integration because more advertisers are opting to do it. "Consumers dislike it because their defenses are down when they're following a storyline." HBO, however, said it does not accept product placements.

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As for PVR penetration, it was low among survey respondents, with only 3% reporting they had TiVo or ReplayTV. But 63% of TiVo owners reported they skip commercials all the time, as did 50% of Replay owners.

The survey of 500 participants was conducted Dec. 5-9 and has a margin of error of 4.4%. It also found more people are giving network news a pass and instead using the Web as their primary source of news and information. The number of people citing the Internet as the first place they turn to for news has almost doubled over the past year, from 9% to 16%.

Only 31% of respondents cited network news was their primary news source, compared with 36% last year. Respondents in the 35 to 44 age group are using cable TV less as a news source than a year ago (22% vs. 26%). Newspapers showed declines among all respondents except those in the 35 to 44 age group, who reported a 2% increase in them as a primary news source.

More than half (52%) of respondents said they are spending the same amount of time reading magazines as a year ago; 14% said they are spending more time reading magazines and 34% were spending less time with titles.

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