The Disadvantages of Electronic Advertising

By Neil Kokemuller

A qualified email subscriber list helps increase response rates.
i Email LCD display image by Alex Yeung from

The term electronic advertising has varying interpretations. It sometimes is defined as non-print media. However, the most common usage of electronic advertising refers to Internet and email advertising. Internet advertising includes a variety of banner, text and pop-ups, and email ads are messages distributed to an email subscriber list. A main reason companies use electronic advertising is its relatively low cost.

Negative Attitude

Electronic ad techniques carry a negative connotation in the marketplace. Internet users typically find the ads intrusive to their online experience. Banner and text ads often are placed in the middle of content, which impedes the reader. Pop-up ads appear over content, often blocking the user from viewing the entire page until removing the ad. Spam and bulk emailers flood inboxes, and junk mail filters automatically knock out a lot of unsolicited messages before they even reach the audience.

Low Response

Internet and email ads have notoriously low response rates, typically at or below 1 percent in most studies. An April 2012 Ad Age article discusses research from Pretarget and ComScore, which showed that not only are click-through rates horrible, but also conversion rates of banner or link clickers into customers are even worse. This calls into question the return on investment for electronic ads if purchased at affordable rates.

Limited Control

While you do have control over the nature of the messages you deliver through email, the Internet environment is less predictable. Some online ads are purchased directly from websites, while others are acquired through third-party providers. If you buy space on the same site where controversial or competing ads appear, this counters the benefits of your ads. If you are a family-friendly brand, for instance, having your ad on a site or next to an ad that promotes adult products or political opinions can damage your reputation.


Electronic media are relatively new compared to traditional broadcast and print media. Despite the ability to track users and collect data, optimum methods for delivering ads electronically remain elusive. In the mid-1990s, banner and pop-up ads appeared, and technology to avoid pop-ups and aversion to banner ads soon followed. Today, streaming audio and video ads have become more common as companies try to capture attention with richer media tools. The challenge is investing money in media with fewer years of research and experience behind them.