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Online consumers overall say they are most likely to pay attention to internet ads in the early evening and onward into the night, though specific time preferences vary by age group, according to a survey by Lightspeed Research and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB).

The research, conducted among online UK consumers, shows that while the early evening was the best time of day for all age groups, younger audiences are more likely to show a steady increase in attention to ads as they day progressed and were more likely to prefer entertaining ads. In contrast, older age groups had peaks in ad interest between 9-12 pm and 2-6 pm.

“Knowing when surfers are more receptive to advertising messages allows marketers to target their campaigns more closely and get the most from their online advertising budget,” said David Day, Lightspeed Research chief executive for Europe. “With so many different activities being carried out by the online population, knowing when to get your message across can be the difference between success or failure for an online campaign.”

Consumers prefer ads when shopping and researching

The survey also polled internet users about the circumstances under which they are most receptive to online advertising messages. It found that users are most receptive to ads during various types of e-commerce activity, such as searching for deals and researching products.

In contrast, respondents are least receptive to ads when they are enjoying an activity that requires their full attention, such as watching catch-up TV or movie clips. This is most likely because they don’t like to be interrupted and would like advertisers to respect their online time, IAB said.

Specific demographic findings about ad-receptivity:

  • Men and the under-age-35 age groups are most likely to say they would pay attention to online ads when researching the best deals. The over-55s are the least likely to pay attention to online ads when looking for bargains.

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  • When it comes to shopping online, the 25-34-year-olds are most likely to pay attention to ads: 44% say they are likely or very likely to pay attention to ads in these circumstances, and one in five say they would be very likely to pay attention to ads they saw while shopping online.

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  • 25 -34-year-olds are most likely to be attracted to ads while watching online video, movie clips and catch-up TV. Some 30% say they would be likely or very likely to pay attention to ads while watching video content online. The results are similar when it comes to downloading music, movies or TV shows.

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In addition to various e-commerce activities, many respondents say they are likely to pay attention to online ads when engaged in a range of other pursuits, from using a search engine, to downloading entertainment files, reading the news, catching up on sports results and playing games online.

Social networking in particular has a high level of receptivity, IAB said.

About the survey: The survey was conducted on Lightspeed Research’s UK online panel between Nov. 28 and Dec. 8, 2008. There were 5022 respondents.

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