Sticky online advertisements haunt India’s internet users

The ghost of Steve Jobs is looming.
The ghost of Steve Jobs is looming.
Image: Reuters/Sivaram V
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Indians clearly do not like being stalked by online advertisers. And advertisers would be well-advised to avoid that path lest they lose credibility.

Nearly half of India’s internet users feel they are “constantly followed” by online advertisements, according to a survey by research consultancy Kantar TNS. That’s 13% more than the global average of 34%. 

“…The menace of intrusive and uncontrolled online advertising is ruining the consumer experience in India,” said Anusheel Shrivastava, executive director at Kantar TNS India, in the report.

TNS surveyed some 70,000 consumers in 54 countries asking for their views on online advertisements and promotions.

India has the world’s second-largest population of internet users after China, according to a report published in August by NASSCOM (pdf), an IT industry body. Clearly, digital advertisers are in a hurry to chase these users, even if it means intruding their online experience.

However, constant, in-your-face advertisements are affecting internet users’ opinion of promotional content.

About 21% Indians aged between 16 and 24 actively ignore social posts or content from brands on the internet, according to the survey. More than half (53%) of these internet users admitted that they trust what people say online about brands—not what brands themselves claim—much more than sources such as newspapers, brand websites or even television advertisements. They trust sources such as celebrities and influencers (bloggers and peers), it noted.

Kantar suggests that instead of chasing them with plain ads, advertisers need to think of alternative ways to woo potential consumers, especially on social media where users are increasingly spending more time. That’s because consumers are demanding content that is “integrated seamlessly into the platform, enhancing rather than interrupting the use of it,” said Zoë Lawrence, APAC digital director at Kantar TNS.  

The online advertising market in India is still in its infancy. Digital advertising constitutes roughly 12% of overall online spends in the country. By December 2016, online advertising market in the country is expected to touch Rs7,044 crore, according to a July 2016 report by industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India  (IAMAI) and research agency IMRB. India’s advertising market is pegged at Rs50,000 crore with half of the spends going to television.

But if advertisers want more bang for their buck, perhaps they need to rethink their strategy to attract the Indian consumer.