In late May, consultants CNW Marketing/Research and shbrown.com surveyed 3,806 cybersurfers who said they intended to buy a new vehicle within the next three months. Car ad agencies were surveyed to determine what percentage were buying online ads in various categories.
While click-throughs on pop-ups are dropping, more car ad agencies are buying them now as compared with 1998. But the study also reveals consumers find pop-ups the most annoying of any online ad forms. Pop-ups scored 9.1 points with a score of 10 points being "extremely annoying," indicating advertisers should stay away from them, said Art Spinella, VP at CNW.
DIRECT E-MAILS ANNOYING
The auto marketers' direct e-mails scored No. 2 on the annoyance scale among those surveyed. That's because although the consumers requested those e-mails, they are getting more e-mails on more car-related topics than they asked for, Mr. Spinella said.
The carmakers collectively spent $72 million in advertising on the Internet last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
Mr. Spinella questioned the effectiveness of those ad dollars, citing declining click-through rates and rising consumer annoyance levels to pop-up windows, sponsored buttons and direct e-mails.
"Clearly what's on there now isn't working," he said. "No one really knows what works, so everyone is trying everything they can."
Tom Healey agreed: "None of the automakers is really saying exactly what they're doing on the Web or what they expect from it," said the partner at consultancy J.D. Power & Associates. "A lot of them are trying to find out what works."
Toyota Motor Corp., Tokyo, for instance, is the exclusive worldwide auto sponsor of the Gen Y music site at spikeradio.com. But Ashley Farr, president of Spike Internet Radio, Los Angeles, said his 24-hour music site doesn't run any banner ads. Visitors who click on Toyota's unobtrusive logo on SpikeRadio's home page are taken to the corporate Toyota site.
WEB NOT A SOURCE OF ADS
Ad expert Lee Weinblatt, CEO of Pretesting Co., Tenafly, N.J., said his research found some banner ads and pop-ups can lower brand images if they don't match a brand's character.
"The Internet is not a source of advertising," he said. "It's an information source, and you can get fast information from your home."
Consumers who are hunting for information on a particular non-car site don't want to be bothered by car banner ads, pop-ups or buttons because it breaks their concentration, Mr. Weinblatt said.
"It almost makes you look desperate, like an encyclopedia salesman years ago who stuck his foot in your door."