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You Like Digital Ads More Than You Think

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In recent years, US marketers have been adopting digital at a rapid pace; eMarketer estimates that the total digital ad spend will increase 16.6 per cent this year, topping $37 billion. And in a sign that digital advertising has come a long way from the blinking banner ads of the late 90s, a slim majority (51 per cent) of marketers rated online ads as more effective than TV ads in an October Adobe survey.

For their part, Internet users, a.k.a. the consumers, don't seem to agree. The same Adobe survey asked consumers where they prefer to see ads. Forty-five percent said their favourite print magazine, and 23 per cent said their favorite TV show. Compare that to only 11 per cent who chose their favorite website, just 3 per cent who chose social media, and only 2 per cent who selected digital magazines.

Some of the explanations for the opinion gap between consumers and marketers are fairly straight-forward. First, ads in print magazines and on TV are a long-established part of the American cultural fabric and something people have come to expect -- even though many consumers now avoid them by using DVRs and by buying far fewer print magazines than before. Second, the ads that people consciously prefer consuming and the ads that actually work aren't necessarily the same thing.

Case in point: online display ads. Most Internet users will tell you they either don't like them or ignore them, and the click-through rates on display ads seems to bear them out. Research from comScore and Starcom MediaVest reveals that 84 per cent percent of Internet users never click on an ad, and the remaining 16 per cent who do click appear to do so almost randomly.

Such dismal click-through rates would seem to indicate that display ads don't work, but, in fact, a display ad can be very effective even when no one clicks on it. Frequently, a consumer will see an online display ad and then visit the advertiser's site hours or days later, often unconscious of having seen the ad.

This is known as a view-through visit or post-impression visit. For many brands, view-throughs can account for over 90 per cent of a site's visitors and over 90 per cent of a site's pageviews. It's a vastly underrated metric, and one that smart companies -- like Facebook -- are starting to adopt.

In other words, surveys that ask consumers about the ads they prefer can only tell us so much. As a consumer, there's a good chance you like digital ads far more than you think.