It’s one of our biggest bugbears: accessing mobile internet to view a piece of video content and having to sit through a prolonged and mind-numbing piece of advertising, which bears no relation to our interests or lifestyle. It’s fair to say that many companies are launching themselves enthusiastically into the sphere of online advertising, but with mixed results.

The Noise:

Most traditional marketing channels are saturated with ‘noise’ from brands vying for attention. The internet has now become the new arena for competitive advertising and brand communication. Although it’s not a new phenomenon itself – after all, the public has been sitting through TV ad breaks for years – it is very difficult to switch off or ignore. For example, YouTube has been playing video ads before video clips are streamed for some time now, now doubt generating significant revenue for the company. But how do customers feel about it?

The Turn-offs:

In the YouTube example, an advert will play and the user is given the option of skipping it after a few sections. If this option isn’t chosen, the advert will continue to play. This is important from a business perspective as it has been shown to increase the feelings of positivity towards a brand and enhance customer perception.

Pop-up boxes are a particular turn-off for many mobile broadband users. Again, there is usually the option to click the cross located in the top right box corner to switch the advert off. However, trickier advert designs now don’t always locate the cross in the usual place, forcing the viewer to engage with the advertising to find a way to switch it off. This can be a significant annoyance for viewers who simply wish to view a website without being subjected to aggressive marketing.

The most serious complaints concern unsolicited flashing, animated pop-ups pointing to competitions and false claims. Thankfully, most businesses avoid using these types of adverts, although certain sectors such as gambling sites and auctioneers do still use them.

The Good Examples:

Mobile Video Advertising

Of course, for every bad example, there’s a positive example of how savvy marketers can use online media to their advantage. Even the dreaded pop-up ads can engage and attract consumers and increase brand awareness if they are done in the right way – discreet, creative, relevant and targeted.

The trick lies in audience segmentation, in exactly the same way as it did with traditional offline marketing channels. Businesses are now targeting internet surfers who have previously shown interest in or engagement with their brand and products, for example by signing up to newsletters or previously purchasing goods.

Facebook is a great channel for marketing and the site offers extremely sophisticated targeting and analytics to help businesses reach the right consumer groups for their products and services. Understanding that mobile broadband means that people are constantly online, businesses have opportunities to create conversations and community in real time. Twitter is a good example of where this can happen to great effect.

Similarly, online and offline can integrate to form seamless marketing campaigns. Beautiful print still has its place and direct mail can effectively send customers online to social-media sites and company websites to sign up for competitions or promotions, or access special deals or early releases of new products. Social media particularly is becoming a powerful channel for businesses to market more discreetly than they do with paid-for advertising. They can start conversations and build brand awareness in a more subtle way, allaying the suspicions of an increasingly savvy and cynical audience.

The internet also offers cheaper ways of advertising and marketing than traditional print media; for example, the Pay-Per-Click model of Facebook can offer a far greater return on investment than traditional media adverts.

The internet offers as many opportunities as it does threats for marketers. By avoiding spammy, irritating and ill-conceived advertising, marketers can find innovative ways to engage with their audiences and spread brand awareness. It does, however, require those marketers to learn about the new online paradigm and acquire new skills. They must be prepared to change rapidly as technologies continue to evolve and realise that the power balance is increasingly shifting to a better educated and ever-more networked audience.