Camouflage ad message in widgets, says Microsoft study

Aimless surfing drowned last year, Microsoft declares, after its study indicates that more than 80% of consumers pre-plan their online use.

If there were any doubts about the ubiquitousness of the internet, a comment from a woman in a recent Microsoft survey says it all, says Andrew Assad, research manager for consumer and online, Microsoft Canada. The internet, the woman said, has made her wonder how much she really needs her mom anymore – because if she needs to know how to cook a pot roast, all it takes is a few clicks of the mouse instead of a phone call home.

The survey, conducted last summer by OTX Research, surveyed 1,105 Canadians through 26,000 interview hours and 23,000 diary entries. The results indicate that the days of aimless web surfing are over – like the woman in the above example, 80% of consumers know what they are going to do when they flip open their laptops and go online. That percentage is up from 60% in 2007.

That means media strategies have to be more targeted than ever, because reaching consumers with mass media buys online is more difficult, Assad tells MiC.

‘What it says is, ‘I’m in a focused mode. I’m checking weather, poring through email or creating my to-do list.’ Taking someone off that path to go investigate something that they are not interested in will be harder, because it’s getting them off task,’ he says.

However, the results of the survey indicated that one of the more effective media strategies may be in the widget realm, where consumers can build their dream car or phone, for example, because less than 50% of respondents said they considered this a form of advertising and were therefore more receptive to the message.

‘People recognize banner ads and display advertising because they’re one of the original forms and are most prevalent,’ Assad says. ‘But online enables this new type of creativity, and consumers don’t really see it as advertising.’

Just like society, the online realm can be divided into ‘public’ and ‘private’ space, and the study found that ads are more welcome in the public realm, when consumers are shopping or seeking information. In ‘private’ zones, when banking or carrying out financial transactions, advertising is less welcome.

Meanwhile, in entertainment and social networking zones, advertising is welcome but has to be earned by offering something of value for consumers or they are ‘often ignored,’ according to the study. When asked what would make them more likely to interact with an ad online, 24% said if the ad offered something free, 23% if it was funny and 22% if it offered a discount.

Microsoft Advertising reaches about 93% of Canadians through its online properties like, Windows Live and Xbox in-game advertising.