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This week the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) releases the findings of a research project undertaken to investigate users’ reaction to advertising in different online environments.

The study, which compared users* and non-users of 20 leading branded, quality content websites**, has confirmed the existence of an ‘online elite’; the most elusive and attractive audience on the net in terms of demographics and behaviour, and reveals that consumers react more positively to advertising on websites they have a strong relationship with.

AOP commissioned the research to support the case that online advertising should take account of quality of site audience, rather than volume. As the market matures there needs to be greater understanding of the different types of online audience, the value of different advertising environments, and the relationship between advertising environment and reaction to advertising.

The findings prove that, for the ‘online elite’, the internet is critical for decision-making:

88% say they often refer to the internet before buying something (compared with 70% of users that do not use quality content sites: ‘non-users’)

85% say that when they need information, the internet is the first place they look (compared with 71% of ‘non-users’)

77% say they have researched a brand they have seen advertised online (compared with 52% of ‘non-users’)

Critically, users of branded, quality content sites spent an average of £800 in the last six months, compared with the general online user spend over six months of £570 (BMRB Internet Monitor).

Contrary to common assumption, the online elite is responsive to advertising. Eighty per cent admitted to having clicked on an online advertisement to find out more. Sixty-seven per cent admitted to having performed three or more actions (such as book-marking a site, purchasing a product, requesting further information) as a direct result of seeing online advertising.

Most importantly the research shows that, for the online elite, context is king when it comes to online advertising. These users will respond more favourably to ads they view on sites they trust and that they feel are relevant to them:

64% say they prefer to see online advertising that relate to the content they are viewing

53% say they pay more attention to advertising on websites they trust

There is a consistently positive correlation between users’ relationship and satisfaction with a website (in terms of recommendation, loyalty, differentiation and trust) and their positive response, both in attitude and in actions taken, to the advertising they see on it: proving that satisfaction leads to action.

Bill Murray, chairman of AOP and managing director of Haymarket Motoring Publications, comments:

“Our research has confirmed that the stronger the relationship users have with a site, the more positive their reaction to its advertising. As a result we can confidently state that context is king when it comes to placing advertising online, and brands need to carefully consider which sites they choose, and the relationships these sites have with their users.”

“The findings are great news for online publishers as they can demonstrate to advertisers the value of advertising on quality content sites, and therefore reaching the sought-after ‘online elite’. In turn advertisers must look to all the research that is available when placing online spend, so they get the best value for money, and reach the most responsive audience.”

- ends -

Notes to editors:

*The users of branded, quality content sites, ‘the online elite’, can be described as follows:

They visit at least two quality content sites at least twice per month

The Internet is their primary medium

Compared to other users:

They represent a more attractive demographic

They have a higher level of online experience

They are bigger spenders online

They represent an audience of significant scale, reaching 45% of all UK ABC1 25-34s, for example

**Sites chosen to represent branded, quality content

• economist.com

• fhm.com

• football365.com

• ft.com

• guardian.co.uk

• handbag.com

• independent.co.uk

• maxim-magazine.co.uk

• menshealth.co.uk

• NME.com

• skynews.co.uk

• telegraph.co.uk

• thesun.co.uk

• thisislondon.co.uk

• thisismoney.co.uk

• timesonline.co.uk

• topgear.com

• totaljobs.com

• vogue.co.uk

• whatcar.com

About AOP

The UK Association of Online Publishers (AOP) is an industry body that formed in July 2002 to present a unified voice to industry and Government, specifically to address the issues and concerns relating to all sectors of online publishing.

For more information on AOP go to www.ukaop.org.uk

For further information please contact:

Phil Borge or Lara Leventhal
Tel: 020 7927 9999
Email: phil@eulogy.co.uk or lara@eulogy.co.uk

Published on: 12:00AM on 23rd March 2004