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France's Web Users Say 'Non' to Social Media Ads

Two-thirds of internet users find ads on social sites “intolerable”

Unwelcome news for marketers in France who aim to appeal to people on social networks: A majority of those consumers find such ads unpleasant, useless and poorly targeted. These were the conclusions of a June 2013 survey of more than 1,000 internet users ages 18 and older by the Institut français d'opinion publique (IFOP) in collaboration with Generix Group, a firm producing software for collaborative ecommerce.

Sixty-eight percent of web users polled said they found advertising on social sites “intolerable, “ and 59% said it was pointless because it did not reflect their interests or buying habits.

The survey results also appeared to dash the hopes of many advertisers that online communities can be a key part of their ecommerce strategy in France. Three-quarters of respondents said they never bought anything on social sites. While 9% said they did so from time to time, just 1% said they made regular purchases on social networks.

Moreover, ads on these sites seemed to be less effective than most other kinds of online advertising. Only 19% of web users polled by IFOP and Generix said they had ever bought a product or service as a result of seeing an ad on social media, compared to 60% who had made a purchase prompted by an email.

These results were generally borne out by research by France’s Syndicat National de la Communication Directe (SNCD) published in its study, “Social Media Attitude 2013.” SNCD found that only 16% of social network users sampled in June and July 2013 had become clients of a brand after connecting with it on a social network or seeing an ad on such a site—though 38% of web users active on social media said they took account of opinions or comments about brands before making a purchase.

Translating some of the Generix results into audience numbers is a sobering exercise. The number of social network users in France this year will be 23.7 million, eMarketer estimates. If 68% consider social media ads intolerable, that’s 16.1 million web users who may well have a negative impression of a brand.

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