Study reveals bad news for companies that track online users in order to tailor advertising.
Most people don't like tailored web ads and they don't appreciate advertisers using their personal information to direct those ads, revealed a recent study. Professors at the University of California, Berkley, and the University of Pennsylvania, teamed up to conduct a study that focused on adult Internet user reactions to tailored advertisements based on their web browsing habits. Of the 1,000 people interviewed, 66 percent of respondents said that tailored ads did not appeal to them.
According to Dr. Joseph Turow, lead author of the study and a professor of communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, advertisers go about tailoring ads to potential customers by drawing conclusions using patterns of activity. "There has to be information respect," he said. "If you take someone's information, let them know and let them say, 'You can use my gender, but don't use data about my income for tracking me."
The study, which was released last month, found that once respondents learned the various ways that advertisers track them – via other websites, or even when they are offline – their aversion to being tracked increased.
This topic has been one of recent political debate, due to new proposed rules by the FCC about net neutrality, and forthcoming online privacy legislation by members of Congress.
However, from the perspective of advertising businesses that have been using demographics to direct ads for decades, this method is merely the "continuing process of bringing buyers and sellers together," says Kirsten Mangers, founder and CEO of WebVisible. Her Irvine, California-based software-as-services company uses ads designed to promote site traffic for small businesses, such as promotional URLs and custom landing pages.
"We've been using [customer information] for years, [but now] visibility is on steroids," points out Mangers. "That's a good thing, because now we can spend our dollars wisely, and [potential customers] won't be inundated with data that's not useful and not relevant."