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Generally, Americans have an unfavorable opinion about online targeted advertising. More than half (51%) of US adults believe that targeted advertisements are an inappropriate use of personal data rather than a convenient way to see products they’re interested in, according to more than 3,100 US adults surveyed by YouGov.

Asked which choice best matched their perception (inappropriate use of personal data or convenient way to see interesting products), fewer than 3 in 10 (27%) of total respondents chose the option that targeted advertisements are a convenient way to see products they are interested in. These findings highlight the dilemma advertisers face, with consumers saying they prefer ads that are relevant to them – yet many are opposed to being targeted with ads based on their online activity.

Adding to this dilemma is previous research showing that targeted advertising is often seen as creepy and can have a detrimental effect on a brand. Almost two-thirds (63%) of consumers say they would stop buying from a brand if it used poor personalization tactics such as targeting too often or for too long.

However, opinions about targeted advertising differ considerably when broken down by age. Younger respondents are more likely to see the convenience in targeted ads, while older respondents are generally more likely to have misgivings about the use of personal data. Some 41% of 18-24-year-olds actually hold the more positive opinion of targeted advertising. On the other side of the spectrum, a clear majority (61%) of those respondents 55 and older expressed a negative opinion of targeted ads.

Older Americans may report being more bothered by targeted ads, but that isn’t stopping advertisers from putting more of their budget towards targeting them. Data from Lotame shows that advertisers spent 25% more year-over-year on targeting the older generation during the January-October 2018 period.

Ironically, these same advertisers spent considerably less on targeting young adults. This comes amidst research showing that while Baby Boomers have more discretionary income and tend to make larger purchases, Gen Z (younger than 25) adults actually make considerably more transactions.

About the Data: 3132 US adults were questioned on May 1, 2019. Results are weighted to be representative of the US population.

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