Posted September 30, 2009 10:33 am by with 11 comments

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Professors at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Berkeley just conducted one of the largest independent studies on privacy and advertising tracking–and you may want take note of the findings.

Of 1,000 adult internet users:

…66 percent that said tailored ads were “not OK,” an additional 7 percent said such ads were not OK when they were tracked on the site. An additional 18 percent said it was not OK when they were tracked via other Web sites, and an additional 20 percent said it was not OK when they were tracked offline.

OK, so internet users don’t like the idea of targeted ads, but are we getting the complete picture here? Did the survey ask: would you rather have a site serve targeted ads or pay a fee to access the content? I doubt it! You see, it’s easy to ask questions that peel away at the sentiment of the general public, but are not necessarily representative of what they are actually willing to accept.

Think about it. If consumers knew what was being tracked each time they handed over their grocery store “super important VIP discount card” they’d be too scared to ever step foot in the store again! If questioned, they’d probably object to the tracking, but tell them that that “2 for 1” deal on the 12-pack of Coke vanishes, and they might have a different perspective.

As marketers we should be concerned about this study. Privacy advocates are using it to scare the crap out of the FTC and Washington–neither of which will ask the questions I just did. And, with 69% of respondents saying they’re in favor of laws that force a web site to reveal ALL data they’re tracking and a whopping 92% favoring an option to delete all of that data, we could end up with some pretty lame ads.

Do we need regulation on what’s tracked and how the data is used? Perhaps–there are some shady businesses out there. But, we should do so only after web users are explicitly told, “look, you delete this ad tracking info and you’ll be bashing animated monkeys each time you come to our site!”

  • How about, would you rather visit a website with blanket ads that you will unlikely be interested in, or would you rather see ads that may spark your interest from time to time?

    Since I don’t own a dog, I don’t need to see dog food ads. Dog food ads aren’t helpin me, the publisher/network or the advertiser. Now serve up some ads with some intelligence and I might just take ya up on that timely offer.

    ps: nice ad zone right above the comments!
    .-= Hershel Miller´s last blog ..Wisconsin Real Estate Update =-.

  • Relevant Ads Rock!

    Go ahead, marketers. Track my breakfast cereal habits and beer preferences, my shampoo of choice, even my “I went to the gym four times this week I need candy” craving.

    Just don’t tell my Mom I still eat Froot Loops from time to time. That’s an invasion of my privacy.
    .-= Social Media Commando´s last blog ..Tearing Down the Social Silos of Search =-.

    • Hah! Maybe we can have a compromise. Amazon lets me remove things from my profile that aren’t relevant to the products I want it to recommend. Maybe ads could work the same way?

      • Agreed.

        So long as it’s an easy to use opt-out, I’d be game for that. Like you said, without the marketing data, a lot of those ‘freebies’ could magically disappear. That wouldn’t be too popular.
        .-= Social Media Commando´s last blog ..Tearing Down the Social Silos of Search =-.

  • Jim

    For me, it’s all about disclosure and choice. Privacy online is a technology problem that needs a technology solution so that people can stay in their own comfort zone. We haven’t seen good, usable privacy technologies develop because the companies who make browsers also own or are supported by ad networks. Hmmm.

    Just for fun, take a look at the network privacy profile for — who collects information on this site and what they do with it:

    Any surprises? Is that scary?

    • I’d imagine that’s one of the least scary reports you’ll see. 😉

  • Amanda

    ‘web users are explicitly told, “look, you delete this ad tracking info and you’ll be bashing animated monkeys each time you come to our site!”‘

    This consumer simply goes to else. No website is indispensable.

  • BWI

    Before that survey was given I also wonder if the participants were fully aware of what ad tracking is. I guarantee my Dad..who is probably online right now, has no clue what it is or how it works.
    .-= BWI´s last blog ..Is Your Browser an Add-on Machine? =-.

  • It’s all just mis-characterizations based on terminology. WE know what “tracking” and “targeting” mean, it means giving people what they most likely want. It’s a waste of time and money for advertisers to shotgun blast ads at people where 60% have zero chance of buying. It’s all done anonymously, we have no need to know that John Smith at 32 Cherry Tree Lane likes frosted cereal, but rather that cookieID 3245fsdfhj had been looking at our Frosted Flakes coupon page and is now over at Cereal Reviews website where we have some ad space running, and that user likely would respond to an even better deal on Frosted Flakes.

    But Joe Public, and even more annoyingly, Joe Senator, see the words “tracking” and “targeting” and they envision marketers digging through their garbage and peeping through windows. If we would have called the tactics “customized offers” or “value matching” we likely wouldn’t even be having this conversation.
    .-= Terry Howard´s last blog ..Commissioner Infantini Wrong on Parking Meters =-.

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