A recent study at Ball State University has revealed that college students are annoyed by advertisements on their mobile phones, reports eMarketer. The study of a primarily female group of students found surprisingly negative reactions to mobile ads. More than 40% were annoyed when they encountered mobile ads compared to a mere 1.2% who were pleased with the ads. However, most surprisingly, nearly 3 in 10 people said they were less likely to buy a product after seeing a mobile ad and a very small number said the ad would encourage them to buy.
Moreover, 44.3 % said they would not want to receive mobile ads under any circumstances, even when offered something free in return. Meanwhile 37% said they were willing to accept mobile ads only when offered something in return; namely music, ringtones, or money. Even when offered coupons the students' response was unenthusiastic.
The information found in this study by Ball State is surprising, but extremely relevant. Particularly as Apple's newest smartphone, the iPhone 4, hit the stores a few days ago, advertisers and journals are looking for new ways to communicate with smartphone users. While advertisers once thought that smartphones would provide fertile land for digital advertising, perhaps this is not so. If the response to mobile ads is so negative, then companies looking to use digital advertising may be taking a risk in going directly to users on their mobile phones.
Moreover, eMarketer suggested that perhaps non-marketing initiatives, like branded apps, might be more warmly welcomed by students because it is "less intrusive."
While this reaction to mobile ads could be a result of a many reasons, perhaps ads are perceived as intrusive because users see them as a violation of their personal space. The phone, a device that is generally viewed as being a very personal device, is perhaps an odd place for users to receive ads. Considering that when smartphone users use their phones they typically have a goal in mind (find a good restaurant in the area, check Facebook, etc) and mobile ads only get in the way. Moreover, smartphone users most likely buy smartphones for the experience of cutting-edge technology, not to be bombarded with ads.
Therefore, mobile advertisers need to be careful as to how they proceed. While the college audience is an attractive prospect, using mobile advertising could backfire. Clearly, if advertisers are to engage the college audience, they will need to find a way to reach college students with something that actually interests them, instead of bombarding them with unwanted ads. Hmm. . . .ice cream party?