There’s been a lot of excitement lately about the amping-up of online advertising. Many believe that behaviorally-targeted ads ensure that brands will grab consumers’ interests; most recently the social networking site Facebook announced that it would start offering ads based on users’ personal profiles (see our take on the matter). And then there are those so-called “ad-overlays” on YouTube (advertisements appear for several seconds like a translucent screen atop a video clip), unveiled last week. Such ads are expected to draw in consumers who entertain themselves with masterpieces like the latest version of the Web hit “Chocolate Rain.”

Marketers who want to step up their digital campaigns should pay heed to two new research reports. The crux of the findings: People really don’t like online ads. Either they pay no attention to them, or else they find Internet adverts to be more annoying than those in other media. In other words, unless a consumer wants the information a marketer has to offer–say, in messages to which she or he subscribed to receive via email or SMS–the consumer will disregard such content.

More than three-quarters of those polled between the ages of 13 and 75 “find Internet ads to be more intrusive than print advertisements in newspapers and magazines,” eMarketer reported today (see the full story). That especially includes those ideal targets of digital marketing, teenagers and young adults. Of those 13 to 24, 78 percent called online ads intrusive.

Moreover targeted messaging beat “pull” ads: E-mail marketing had a return-on-investment, or ROI, of 12 percent. That compares to a mere 1 percent ROI for banner ads, according to the eMarketer report. Even keyword-targeted banners had an ROI of just 3 percent.

Speaking of banners, other research further proves their inefficacy. Internet usability expert Jakob Nielsen, founder of the consultancy Nielsen Norman Group, recently wrote a Web column about the results of an eyetracking study his group conducted. “Users almost never look at anything that looks like an advertisement, whether or not it’s actually an ad,” Mr. Nielsen said. “On hundreds of pages, users didn’t fixate on ads.” Heat-sensor images in the column show that, indeed, Web users didn’t even look at these little boxes.

Mr. Nielsen continues: “If users are looking for a quick fact, they want to get done and aren’t diverted by banners; and if users are engrossed in a story, they’re not going to look away from the content. “

Readers originally seek out information, such as news articles, on their own. Targeted messaging plays on this instinct, since it lets consumers deliberately subscribe to receive emails and SMS texts–again, on their own.

-Eydie Cubarrubia, Marketing Communications Manager