Americans Reject Tailored Advertising and Three Activities that Enable It
By Annenberg School for Communication, UC Berkeley School of Law, and the Annenberg Public Policy Center
"The desire by a majority of Americans not to be followed for the purpose of tailored content comes at a time when behavioral targeting is a fast-growing advertising practice."
Authors: Joseph Turow, Jennifer King, Chris Jay Hoofnagle, Amy Bleakley, Michael Hennessy
Type of Promotional Material/Activity Tested: Americans’ opinions about behavioral targeting by marketers. Behavioral targeting involves following users’ actions and then tailoring advertisements for the users based on those actions.
Sample population: 1,000 U.S. adult Internet users. A combination of landline (n=725) and wireless (n=275) random digit dial samples was used to represent all English speaking adults in the continental United States who have access to either a landline or cellular telephone.
Methodology: Telephone interviews were conducted from June 18 to July 2, 2009 by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The interviews averaged 20 minutes. The overall response rates were a rather typical 18% for the landline sample and 22% for the cellular sample. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ±3.6% at the 95% confidence level. The margin of error is higher for smaller subgroups within the sample.
Top Line Results:
The majority of adult Americans (66%) do not want marketers to tailor online advertisements to their interests.
US Adult Internet Users Who Would Like
Websites to Show Info Tailored to Their Interests
Display ads tailored to your interests
Give you discounts tailored to your interests
Show you news tailored to your interests
When Americans are informed of three common ways that marketers gather data in order to tailor ads (what you do on the website you are visiting, what you did on other websites you have visited, what you do offline--for example, in stores) even higher percentages--between 73% and 86%--say they would not want such advertising.
The survey finds that younger adults are less likely to say no to tailored advertising than are older ones. This said, more than half (55%) of 18-24 year-olds do not want tailored advertising.
Young adults express as strong an aversion to being followed online and offline as do older adults. Nearly seven of 10 (67%) 18-24 year-olds say they don't want tailored advertising if it is based on tracking them on the website they are visiting, 86% say they don’t want tailored advertising if it is based on tracking them on “other websites” they have visited, and 90% reject it if it is the result of following what they do offline.
When told that the act of following them on websites will take place anonymously, respondents’ aversion to it remains high: 68% “definitely” would not allow it and 19% would “probably” not allow it.
A majority of respondents also do not want discounts or news fashioned specifically for them, though the percentages are smaller than the proportion rejecting tailored ads.
Seven of 10 (69%) respondents feel there should be a law that gives people the right to know everything that a website knows about them.
More than nine of 10 (92%) agree there should be a law that requires “websites and advertising companies to delete all stored information about an individual, if requested to do so.”
Six of 10 (63%) people surveyed believe advertisers should be required by law to immediately delete information about their Internet activity.
- The survey finds that Americans mistakenly believe that current government laws restrict companies’ rights to share and sell information about their activities -- both online and offline.
Take Away: "The desire by a majority of Americans not to be followed for the purpose of tailored content comes at a time when behavioral targeting is a fast-growing advertising practice upon which many content providers have staked their businesses ... Americans’ widespread rejection of relevant tailored advertising is particularly startling because it flies in the face of marketers’ consistent contention that Americans desire for relevant commercial messages justifies a variety of tracking activities. When three contemporary forms of behavioral tracking are highlighted, rejection of tailored ads is even more widespread. The finding applies across all age groups, including young adults, a cohort that media executives have insisted cares little about information privacy."
Complexity rating: 1 out of 3 (Complex statistical analysis scale: 1= none, 2= moderate, 3 = difficult)