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12/5/2006
03:09 PM
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Consumer Use Of Ad-Blocking Technology Doubles

In the past two years, the number of consumers using pop-up blockers and spam filters has more than doubled, according to a study from Forrester Research.

Memo to marketers: Consumers still hate you, and they've taken to blocking your ads.

In the past two years, the number of consumers using pop-up blockers and spam filters has more than doubled, according to a new study, "Consumers Love to Hate Advertising," from Forrester Research. More than half of all American households now report using these ad-blocking technologies to block unwanted pitches.

Broadband households have become even harder to reach: Some 81% of those with high-speed Internet access employ pop-up blockers and spam filters.

Consumer attitudes toward marketers have actually improved somewhat, according to the report. But it's not clear whether this slight thaw in sentiment is the result of successful ad blocking.

The report suggests that marketers, media agencies, and publishers should see the stabilization of dislike as a sign of hope. At the same time, it warns that companies "cannot afford to ignore consumer distaste for advertising."

And that distaste is strong. "Only 13% of consumers admit that they buy products because of their ads, and a paltry 6% believe that companies generally tell the truth in ads," the report states.

The most common ad-blocking system is operated by the government-run National Do Not Call Registry, which now protects over 107 million U.S. consumers from intrusive telemarketing.

Forrester also notes that ad avoidance is becoming more common on television. Today, 15% of consumers acknowledge using their digital video recorders to skip ads, more than three times as many as in 2004. The research firm predicts this behavior will spread, based on projections that over half of all U.S. households will have DVRs by 2010.

Consumer ire, the report says, is driven by three factors: an excess of ads, the disruptive nature of ads, and the irrelevance of ads.

What's a marketer to do, beyond maintaining an unlisted number and pretending to work in a less despised profession such as a cigarette company executive? Forrester recommends facilitating user experiences instead of disrupting them; focusing on metrics that measure whether a desired action occurred rather than whether a message was seen or heard; and shifting budgets from media to infrastructure to facilitate marketing across mediums from a central store of consumer data.

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