Study: Mobile Ads ‘Irk’ College Students with Smartphones

A new report from Ball State University finds that college students are dumping their cell phones for smartphones at a rapid pace.

But during the last three years, as the shift toward smartphones began in earnest, the same students have seen their antipathy for mobile advertisements grow just as much.

An annual survey of college students at Ball State finds that smartphone and feature phone usage has flip-flopped since 2009. In a recent survey, 73 percent of students reported using a smartphone as compared to 27 percent in 2009.

“The complete reversal of mobile device usage reflects the explosive growth of Internet-accessible, computer-like smartphones away from text and talk feature phones,” said Michael Hanley, an advertising professor and director of Ball State’s Institute for Mobile Media Research.

“For many college students, their lives revolve around their smartphones,” he said. “Not only is it a phone, but they use it to email, send text, download and listen to music and access social media sites.”

So, in terms of smartphones, that’s the good news. Here’s the bad news.

College smartphone owners are growing more annoyed at mobile advertising. In fact, 83 percent of survey participants say they are displeased by marketing. That’s up from 68 percent just last year. Nearly half of smartphone users say they are less likely to purchase from a business after receiving an ad.

“This trend in mobile ad avoidance has accelerated since 2009 and is reflected in many areas of the 2013 survey findings,” Hanley concluded. “Consider that 83 percent of smartphone users who received ads are ‘very concerned’ or ‘concerned’ about how a business got their phone number, up from 52 percent in 2009.”