Internet marketing can be a tough egg to crack. This new study from Harris Interactive provides some insight.

Although the digital space is considered to be a great place to target and reach consumers, when adults were asked which type of ads do they tend to ignore or disregard the most, over six in ten say Internet ads (63%).  Among those who ignore Internet ads, two in five say they ignore banner ads (43%) the most and one in five say they ignore search engine ads (20%) the most.  Smaller percentages say they ignore television ads (14%), radio ads (7%) and newspaper ads (6%); just 9% of Americans say they don’t ignore any of the listed types of ads.

These are some of the findings of a new Adweek Media/Harris Poll, survey of 2,098 U.S. adults surveyed online between October 5 and 7, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

While we know that certain advertising themes appeal to men and women differently, there is little difference in the ads that men and women say they tend to ignore the most.  Two in five of both men (42%) and women (45%) say they ignore Internet banner ads the most, one in five say they ignore Internet search engine ads (20% and 21% respectively), while somewhat fewer say so about television ads (15% and 13%), radio ads (7% and 8%), and newspaper ads (6% and 5%).

Differences by Age

While there are few gender differences, there are interesting variations when this question is looked at by age.  Older Americans say they ignore ads on TV the most — one in five of those 55 years and older say they ignore TV ads (20%), compared to 14% of those 45-54 years, 13% of those 35-44 years, and just 9% of those 18-34 years.  Conversely, younger Americans are more likely than those older to ignore radio ads the most (11% of those 18-34 years do, compared to 6% of those 55 years and older).  Also, while over two in five in all age groups say they ignore Internet banner ads the most, those aged 35-44 are most likely to say this, as almost half ignore these ads (47%) compared to between 42% and 43% of the other age groups.

Differences by Education

Those who have more education are more likely to ignore online advertisements — 46% of both those who have some college and those who are college graduates say they ignore banner ads, compared to just 40% of those who have a high school degree or less.  One-quarter (23%) of those who have graduated from college say they ignore search engine ads, compared to 17% who have a high school or less education.  Those with a high school or less education, however, are more likely to ignore television ads (17% versus 12% of those who have gone to college).

So What?

Although almost all Americans say they ignore some ads (91%), this does not mean it’s a lost cause for advertisers.  Rather, companies looking to effectively reach consumers may just need to educate themselves and tailor their messages – as well as their chosen medium – to best appeal to the desired group.

“Which one of the following types of ads do you tend to ignore or disregard the most?”  
Base: All U.S. adults  
Total Gender Age Education  
Male Female 18-34 35-44 45-54 55+ H.S. or less Some college College grad +  
% % % % % % % % % %  
Any (NET) 91 90 92 90 92 88 93 89 92 94  
  Internet banner ads 43 42 45 42 47 43 43 40 46 46  
  Internet search engine ads 20 20 21 21 21 19 20 17 22 23  
  Television ads 14 15 13 9 13 14 20 17 12 12  
  Radio ads 7 7 8 11 7 5 6 8 7 7  
  Newspaper ads 6 6 5 7 4 7 5 6 5 6  
None of these 9 10 8 10 8 12 7 11 8 6  
Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding  


This Adweek Media/Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between October 5 and 7, 2010 among 2,098 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Where appropriate, this data were also weighted to reflect the composition of the adult online population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

The Harris Poll® #150, December 3, 2010

By Samantha Braverman, Project Researcher, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit

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