In Right Context, Internet Users Like Targeted Ads

July 8, 2010

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Internet users are more likely to prefer targeted online ads when they are asked to make real-world, value-for-value trade-offs, such as free access to Internet content, according to a new survey by PreferenceCentral.

It’s How You Ask

Prior research on consumers’ attitudes toward behavioral targeting used simple, single-option questions, leading to, PreferenceCentral said, an incomplete and misleading view of consumers’ real-world perspectives on online advertising. In this survey of 1,050 U.S. Internet users, PreferenceCentral asked consumers to state their preferences for tailored online advertising in the context of real-world trade-off scenarios and found that over half of consumers surveyed indicated that they prefer relevant targeted online ads as a trade-off for access to free content.

Annoying Online Ads the Real Culprit

Another myth debunked in this study was that privacy concerns were behind earlier findings of consumers’ distaste for targeted ads. Rather, the study found, it was dislike for annoying online ads.

According to the survey, when educated about behavioral targeting, 29% of respondents became less comfortable with the trade-off of free content for targeted ads. However, when subsequently informed that behavioral targeting information is anonymous and non-personally identifiable, 35% of these Internet users became more comfortable, indicating a need for consumer education on this topic.

Also, when presented with the option of a solution that would give them more control over their exposure to targeted ads and transparency into the data used by advertisers, 70% expressed interest in using such a tool, with 33% stating they are very to extremely interested. In addition, 41% of consumers became more comfortable and were 27% more willing to receive targeted, relevant ads in exchange for free content if they were given a control solution.
Finally, across all trade-off exercises, only about 10% of consumers expressed a preference for paying for content with no advertising.

“The core takeaways for the advertising industry are that it’s not enough to just educate consumers on targeted advertising; we must also provide meaningful choice and control over their online ad experience,” according to Karl Lendenmann, vice president of marketing and analytics for PreferenceCentral parent company Datran Media. “For online publishers, these results mean that they should be offering multiple content-access models to optimize appeal and monetization.”

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