College Students: Mobile Ads Are Annoying

It’s not terribly surprising that smartphones have become as popular with college students as pizza and Facebook. New research from Ball State's Institute for Mobile Media Research shows smartphone ownership within this group went from 27% to 69% in the last three years. Research from Nielsen this week indicated 62% of people aged 18-24 have smartphones and two-thirds of those 25-34.

More interesting in the Ball State research is that 70% of college students find mobile ads annoying, and about 75% were "concerned" or "concerned a little" about getting mobile ads. But they weren’t turned off by all ads. Almost two-thirds (64%) said they would be more receptive if marketers would offer coupons and incentives.

Cash-strapped students may be especially focused on getting discounts, but that interest in deals is universal. Case in point: the explosion of daily deal sites. But the annoyance with mobile ads more broadly poses a challenge to brand advertisers trying to reach young consumers on smartphones.

Ball State plans to study tablet use in upcoming surveys as they become more affordable and more common in university classrooms across the country. "I believe tablets are going to be the next mobile communication device to take hold on college campuses," said Michael Hanley, an associate professor of advertising at Ball State and director of the Mobile Media Research arm. "Personal computers and laptops are a dead-end industry because they are simply too large." Then, we can find out if students are any less annoyed by ads on tablets.

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