December 22, 2006, 12:00 AM

Online advertising influences word of mouth, DoubleClick survey finds

Bloggers, social network participants and other active web users have influence on purchase decisions of family and friends. That makes them a segment worth targeting in planning online advertising, DoubleClick reports.

When marketers buy web advertising, they’re investing in not only advertising directly to those who see the ad online, but also through those viewers to friends, colleagues and family members – when the ad viewers are part of a customer segment deemed to be influencers. So concludes a report from DoubleClick Inc., which explores how marketers can effectively spend online to influence word of mouth among consumers.

DoubleClick identified more than 1,000 influencers among some 6,000 respondents (about 17%) to its annual Touchpoints online consumer survey, based on their responses to questions that determined them to be active networkers, subject matter experts, bloggers and online community participants. The survey report concluded this is a group worth segmenting out in planning online marketing and advertising because of referrals and advice they tend to give about products and experiences with friends and family.

The segment behaves differently than online consumers at large in how they consume online media and as a result, in the degree to which they pass on information to others about what they have seen or experienced online. Influencers were bigger consumers of media overall and particularly of the Internet, with 39% saying they spend five or more hours a day online versus 23% of non-influencers who said so.

Furthermore, influencers embrace emerging media, with 57% of them saying they watch video online today versus 40% of non-influencers, and 44% reading blogs versus 28% of non-influencers. Among influencers, 36% access the web on handheld devices compared to 21% of non-influencers.

Influencers paid close attention to advertising, both positive and negative. For example, they were more likely than non-influencers to use a pop-up blocker to control their web experience. They also were more likely to agree with positive statements about advertising, such as the 76% who agreed with the statement that they were likely to pay attention to advertising when shopping for relevant products, versus only 63% of non-influencers who said so.

“There has been a lot of research to establish that a small segment of people have disproportionate influence on how the rest of us – their friends, family and co-workers – make purchase decision,” says Rick Bruner, DoubleClick’s director of research and industry relations. “If the question is how companies can spend their marketing dollars to impact word of mouth, the answer is to reach those influencers through advertising.”

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