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A majority of online adults find advertising that appears as content (so-called “native ads”) to be misleading, according to survey results released in November 2012 by MediaBrix. They feel most deceived by sponsored video ads, with 86% reporting they find those ads misleading. 57% feel similarly about Facebook Sponsored Stories, and 45% about Twitter Promoted Tweets.

Their ire is not for digital media alone. 66% feel misled by advertorials (sponsored editorial, which appears both online and in print), and 61% by TV infomercials.

Young Consumers Most Likely To Feel Duped

In general, younger online adults are the most likely to feel misled. For example, 60% of respondents who found Twitter promoted tweets misleading were aged 18-34, and 52% of respondents who found Facebook Sponsored Stories misleading were in that same age group. 45% of those who found sponsored video ads misleading were aged 18-34, compared to 20% of those aged 35-44, 11% aged 45-54 and 24% aged 55+.

This is somewhat surprising, as one might expect that this younger group would pick up more on the difference between native ads and content. Of course, the results might simply reflect a potentially young age composition of the survey sample. Nonetheless, the data suggests that young consumers – a prime target for many brands – do feel misled to some degree by these ads.

The results are vague as to how great the impact is upon brands. 62% of respondents said Twitter Promoted Tweets negatively impacted or had no impact on their perception of the brand advertised, but MediaBrix offers no breakdown between negative and no impact. 72% of respondents said the same about Facebook sponsored stories, and 85% about sponsored video ads that appear to be content.

Consumers don’t appear to mind ads, as long as the ads are relevant and clearly ads. MediaBrix found in August, for example, that an overwhelming 87% of Facebook app users prefer free apps, and 83% of those users favor keeping them free through relevant ads that appear during breaks in a game or application, versus through in-app purchases. Asked what they prefer in those ads, consumers named relevant, interactive in-app social and mobile advertising that appears during natural breaks in app/game usage, or ads that add value through a value exchange such as a virtual good or currency in an app or game.

About The Data: MediaBrix commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct the survey online among 2,516 adults in the U.S. ages 18 and older in October 2012.

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