Last year, an Annenberg-Berkeley survey entitled "Americans Reject Tailored Advertising" published to considerable attention. It, and similar studies, found consumer harbor aversions to behaviorally targeted online advertising based primarily on privacy concerns. A new study published by Datran Media's PreferenceCentral disputes these findings -- and does so with a suvery of over 1,000 consumers who were asked questions modelled closely on the Annenberg-Berkeley research.
Consumers are far less concerned with privacy issues stemming from targeted advertising than they are just plain peeved by annoying advertising, finds the new research. In fact, the more sophisticated users who are of greater value to advertisers display the most willingness to make the quid pro quo exchange of non-personally identifiable information for valuable content.
"Prior surveys have used simple, single-option questions," explained Dr. Karl W. Lendenmann, Datran's VP of marketing and analytics who oversaw the research. "The real world is the value-for-value trade-off consumers are making all the time. We gave them 100 points to allocate between three alternatives rather than the yes-or-no questions asked in the earlier survey. This takes more of a microeconomic view of consumer behavior and the internet."
"A minority of Americans reject tailored advertising, but we asked them why they said that. It's because they don't like annoying online ads. Your interpretation of this question is, 'why the hell would I want them to show me ads?,' not a concern about privacy."
Per Lendenmann, if you ask consumers A or B questions, the answers are obvious. 'Would you rather be rich or poor? Healthy or sick? See ads online or not?
His study instead provided respondents with more nuanced options regarding their willingness to pay for ad-free content, and the relevance of the content in exchange for targeting data. "Privacy is an emotionally laden word. Almost every consumer has given some information to adv or publishers. They already know about giving to get. Anybody dislikes being taken advantage of."
"All future research should be done using real-world, value-for-value tradeoff options," insists Lendenmann, "That would give us a more balanced discourse. The industry needs to educate consumers on free quality content supported by relevant targeted advertising. And yes, the anonymity of behavioural data - consumers need to be educated about that."
"It was really interesting to see that those who indicated that they were already aware of behavioral targeting are also more active, higher-value consumers. They were more positive about [BT], too."