Written by Howard Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant


Online AdsGrowing up in the desktop publishing age, I recall trusting the three pioneering companies: Apple, Adobe and Aldus. Of course, those were different and some would say headier times and those three company leaders Jobs, Warnock, and Brainerd are gone, but personally I still trust the remaining companies (Aldus was bought by Adobe).

Therefore, reading a study by Adobe stating that 50% of consumers say that online banner ads do not work and only 3% prefer online ads on social media sites was surprising. Most said that they found online ads “annoying” and “distracting.” The study entitled “Click Here: The State of Online Advertising” suggests that the current thinking about the effectiveness of online ads and social media is exaggerated.

Anytime a study appears that some would consider controversial many people ask how recent the study is, is it a reliable source, and was the research reputable. The study was done between October 8-16 in 2012, the research firm is Edelman Berland and the number of people was 1,250 (all 18 years or older; 1,000 in the general population and 250 were marketing decision makers). Therefore, the source, timeliness, and methodology sound unimpeachable.

“The study is a wakeup call for marketers,” said Ann Lewnes, chief marketing officer at Adobe. “We know there’s a tremendous opportunity—online, on mobile, in social—in terms of where consumers are spending their time and money. But as marketers we’ve yet to really break through. Serving customers relevant content, delivering experiences that are engaging instead of intrusive and, just as importantly, measuring what’s working and what isn’t so that we can improve our marketing are all critical. When marketers begin to master these things we’ll turn the corner—consumers will start to notice and we’ll start to capitalize.”

In the article, Adobe suggests that online marketing ads are failing because of their impersonal nature.

This term “impersonal nature” is interesting. For years we have talked about the reason that variable data printing is more effective is because it is more targeted and relevant.

This study prompts three questions.

  1. Do you agree that online ads are less effective than traditional TV and print ads?
  2. If online ads are failing because of their impersonal nature, does this mean that better targeted and relevant online ads will be more successful?
  3. Does this mean that in addition to variable data printing, email marketing, Purls, QR codes, and SMS text that another service marketers may offer in the future is variable data online ads?

Howard Fenton is a Consultant and Business Advisor at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers and in-plants on benchmarking performance, increasing productivity through workflow management, adding and integrating new digital services, and adding value through customer research. He is a paid contributor to this blog.