re-fuel-College-Students-Attention-to-Ads-July2014Much like the population-at-large, college students pay a considerable amount of attention to recommendations from friends and family. But beyond word-of-mouth, traditional media such as TV ads and posters and billboards also generate a significant amount of attention from college students, according to the latest annual “College Explorer” study [download page] from re:fuel. And while ads on social media sites draw the most attention of the various digital channels identified, banner ads are relatively ignored.

Roughly 8 in 10 respondents claimed to pay a lot (43%) or a little (38%) attention to recommendations from friends and family, with 77% paying some attention to TV ads (though significantly fewer claimed to pay “a lot”). College students also report being tuned into samples (72%), posters and billboards (68%), events (64%) and contests and promotions (also 64%). In fact, 42% reported having received product samples during the school year, with a majority 55% of those having gone on to purchase that brand. Similarly, almost half of the 36% who reported having attended an event on campus that was sponsored by a brand said they went on to make a purchase from the brand.

Meanwhile, the study also finds that ads on social media sites draw attention from roughly 6 in 10 students, as do direct mail, radio ads, magazine ads, and online promotions.

For the most part, those results are in line with data contained in MarketingCharts’ recent Debrief [download page] on stated advertising effectiveness across various channels: the study found Millennials over-indexing other generations in their attention paid to – and stated purchase influence of – social media ads, but still putting TV above all other paid media. The Debrief also finds – much as the College Explorer study does – that few youth pay much attention to mobile or tablet banner ads. In fact, the College Explorer report separately finds that 57% of college students say they “never” click on the banner ads they encounter online, and 30% “never” look at them. Moreover, 56% say they try to avoid pop-up ads and banners, compared to just 33% who try to avoid ads on social media sites and 19% who avoid sponsored events.

The study also investigates the types of ads that students find most appealing. For females, the top 3 are for upcoming movies, health & beauty, and fashion, while for males, the top 3 are for video games, upcoming movies and tech products.

As for the creative that can best capture their attention? Not surprisingly, humorous ads come to the fore, followed by creatively unique ads and ads that are relevant or meaningful.

What kind of market are advertisers competing for? Total student spending is estimated to be $545 billion, with $163 billion of that being discretionary student spending. Those figures represent a substantial increase from last year’s estimates of $404 billion and $117 billion, respectively.

About the Data: The data is based on a survey of 1,209 college students between the ages of 18-34 interviewed online between March 3 and March 14, 2014. The survey was executed by Crux Research Inc. and its sample is a national representation across all college segments.

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