Research shows consumers aren’t buying targeted online advertising
Customized internet ads aren’t clicking with shoppers.
Ever notice how when you spend time shopping for shoes or clothes on a retailer’s website, that the advertisements for those same products seem to “follow” you when you go on Facebook or start reading an article on another page?
You’re not crazy. Advertisers are tracking the digital footprint you’ve left by shopping online and “liking” brands and influencers on Facebook, and then using your browsing behavior to direct personalized ads at you for things you’re likely to spend money on.
But it turns out that consumers aren’t buying this customized advertising, according to researchers at the University of Illinois, who surveyed 442 college students on how they handled this online behavioral advertising. Most responded by avoiding the ads entirely, and the study noted that more than 30% of U.S. internet users have installed tools like ad blockers.
“The perception of risk is much stronger than the perception of benefit,” said University of Illinois advertising professor and study author Chang-Dae Ham. “That drives them to perceive more privacy concern, and finally to avoid the advertising.”
And research has shown that college students typically share less privacy concerns than older age groups, so it stands to reason that older web browsers could be even more wary of targeted online ads.
A recent survey of U.K. mothers that found one-third of them “hate” targeted and personalized ads, and 68% of all respondents would not be more likely to buy an advertised product targeted toward them. “It’s in nobody’s interests to show people ads they don’t want to see, or that make them scrabble for the ‘close tab’ button,” concluded that survey’s author. “If personalized advertising isn’t done sensitively, the risk is that users will opt for the nuclear ad blocker option.”
And Facebook apologized last month after a leaked document revealed two top Australian Facebook execs used algorithms to collect data on the emotional state of high school students from their posts, pix and reactions that could be used to target when they were most vulnerable to advertising messages.
Targeted advertising has been around for decades – remember the privacy concerns over “cookies” in the 90s? – but has grown more sophisticated. And it’s only going to get more pervasive, since Congress recently allowed your data history to be sold to advertisers without your consent after repealing data mining protections put in place by the FCC under the Obama Administration.
Ham believes advertisers should just come clean about how they’re using personalized advertising to win shoppers over. “They need to educate consumers, they need to clearly disclose how they track consumers’ behavior and how they deliver more-relevant ad messages to them,” he said. Otherwise, potential customers “feel a higher fear level than required, so they just block everything.”
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