Image: Courtesy of Todayandtomorrow

Segmentation, behavioral targeting, retargeting, data exchanges: The opportunities to deliver “relevant” advertising to people are endless. As a digital marketer, you have so many choices ‘targeting’ your audience and delivering ‘relevant’ messages. And, what’s the result?

“Against all odds, traditional advertising is perceived by consumers as more informative, entertaining and necessary than online advertising. Of more than 1,200 people surveyed for digital marketing show ad:tech London by Zussi Research, 69 percent believed traditional advertising was relevant to them, compared with 45 percent for online. For the TV target audience—those aged between 25-34-years old—the gap widens further: 81 percent (traditional) vs. 53 percent (online).

Worse still for digital marketers, annoyance around advertising on the Web is twice as high online as offline. Comments made were that digital advertising is “ill-structured,” “mainly irrelevant” and represents a bigger, unwanted distraction for the consumer, rather than a subtle influence.

Typical comments included: “Traditional advertising is less in your face – online seems to use all kinds of annoying tricks to make you view them, eg popups and blank screen links you click by accident. It’s an immediate turn-off.”

As the article asks: Why is this happening?

And, their answer is:

“ad:tech conference and marketing director, Christophe Asselin, says that customers aren’t responding positively the way that the industry believes. “While we are witnessing some amazing online campaigns out there, this research simply shows that the overall advertising and marketing community isn’t hitting the mark with online users.

“Customers are becoming more and more savvy to online marketing tactics and are less forgiving toward sloppy and clumsy practices mainly adapted from the old mass media communication model. Just because online is cheaper and quicker to implement, doesn’t mean you can afford to throw away its huge potential,” added Asselin.”

What happened? (Not sure if people were just asked about display advertising. If the survey includes SEM, this is even worse than anybody could have ever imagined.) Is it the abundance of online inventory? Sites plastered with display ads and text links, resembling more a weekend in a cheap tattoo parlor than a serious publication? Limited creativity packed into tiny pixel boxes? Failed integration between traditional and digital agencies/divisions? Measly budgets for creative executions? Focus on media placements first and then allowing the creative department to play in their limited sandbox? Applying lean-backward tactics to a lean-forward medium? Broadcast mentality in a narrowcast world?

I don’t have an answer. I said for a long time the effectiveness of online marketing is rapidly declining. Bright, shiny objects often let us forget that the traditional digital tools don’t work that well anymore. Or not at all. All I know is, we need to start thinking outside of the 728×90 box. Outside of quick fixes (Facebook page, anyone?) If the digital marketing industry desires continual growth, we better see these survey results as a big wake-up call.

Are we going to consider this as a big reset for the industry or just another study to yawn about? That’s the $368 billion dollar question.