Home  › Marketing › Strategies

Don't Target Me

  |  October 9, 2009   |  Comments

Behavioral isn't the only form of advertising under scrutiny. Consumers want privacy online and off-.

Targeted. Tracking. Behavioral.

In online advertising these methods of serving ads are different. Sure there's overlap, but all refer to different methodologies and, usually, technologies.

A notable new survey from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California Berkeley combines all these methods under the rubric "tailored advertising" and find the majority of Americans don't like personalization, targeting, tracking, and their ilk when it comes to serving ads on the Web. Period.

More alarming, these practices fall deeper into disfavor when explanations are provided as to how these various forms of ad tailoring work -- even when people are assured their privacy is protected. Americans, at least the ones who participated in this survey, want legislation that protects their privacy and their personal data.

Bad Actors

As with the great spam debate several years ago that led to e-mail legislation, bad actors are to blame. The survey found the majority of respondents felt their privacy had been violated (often more than once), both online and off-. Even so, the researchers are still scratching their heads as to why the majority of Americans would reject being served news stories that are tailored to their interests, or even discount coupons and targeted offers. According to the study:

    Exactly why they reject behavioral targeting is hard to determine. There may well be several reasons. One may be a general antagonism to being followed without knowing exactly how or with what effects. Americans may not want their behavior on one site to somehow affect the interaction with subsequent sites. Consumers may intend to divide their eeb browsing into different subjective contexts...and they may worry that tracking across those contexts may subject them to...Another reason might be a fear that selective presentation of advertisements, discount offers, or news will put them at a monetary or social disadvantage: some people might get more useful or interesting tailored content than others depending on the conclusions marketers draw about them. The rejection of even anonymous behavioral targeting by large proportions of Americans may mean that they do not believe that data about them will remain disconnected from their personally identifiable information. It may also mean that anonymity is not the only worry they have about the process. Being labeled in ways they consider unfair by marketers online and off may be just as important a concern."

Problem is, there's targeting and then there's targeting. Those ads I keep seeing on Facebook? The ones that promise special teeth-whitening deals to NYU alums? Arguably, those are targeted. But come on. No one, particularly someone with a dose of higher education, is dumb enough to fall for that kind of targeting.

Bad News

Then there are the stories concerning privacy consumers read in the media. Thelma Arnold, a 62-year-old widow in Georgia, would have contentedly lived a life of obscurity if AOL hadn't unintentionally supplied a reporter with enough of her search history to finger her as an individual: searcher number 4417749.

Arnold is, of course, the tip of a very big iceberg. Facebook's Beacon. Credit card leaks. Divulged e-mail addresses. It's a long list indeed, and naturally it's the bad news that's widely publicized.

Of course, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and others have released self-regulatory principles to ward off government regulation. But the sentiment reflected in this study strongly indicates federal regulation is inevitably in the cards. In fact, legislation proposals have been promised, perhaps as early as next month.

Respect

Based on the study's findings, educating consumers about the difference between personal and personally identifiable information and data tracking may not be enough. And heaven knows it will be difficult to get consumers to understand the technologies behind ad serving anyway, even if they care enough to take the time to educate themselves.

Respondents to this survey, at least, have asked for proof that the companies respect their privacy and their personal data. They think it's illegal for companies to share data (it isn't), and that if it isn't, it should be.

This sentiment has enormous implications for the business of the Internet, for companies that serve ads, and for publisher and site owners. But it goes further than that. It could have far-reaching implications for credit card companies, catalogue retailers, broadcasters, direct mailers, traditional advertisers. The list goes on and on.

Privacy and data protection are something consumers want, and something Washington is prepared to give them. Balancing the interests of all concerned parties, however, will be a hard line to toe.

ClickZ Live San Francisco This Year's Premier Digital Marketing Event is #CZLSF
ClickZ Live San Francisco (Aug 11-14) brings together the industry's leading practitioners and marketing strategists to deliver 4 days of educational sessions and training workshops. From Data-Driven Marketing to Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email, this year's comprehensive agenda will help you maximize your marketing efforts and ROI. Register today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca was previously VP, U.S. operations of Econsultancy, an independent source of advice and insight on digital marketing and e-commerce. Earlier, she held executive marketing and communications positions at strategic e-services companies, including Siegel & Gale, and has worked in the same capacity for global entertainment and media companies, including Universal Television & Networks Group (formerly USA Networks International) and Bertelsmann's RTL Television. As a journalist, she's written on media for numerous publications, including "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal." Rebecca spent five years as Variety's Berlin-based German/Eastern European bureau chief. Rebecca also taught at New York University's Center for Publishing, where she also served on the Electronic Publishing Advisory Group. Rebecca, author of "The Truth About Search Engine Optimization," was ClickZ's editor-in-chief for over seven years.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

BigDoor: The Marketers Guide to Customer Loyalty

The Marketer's Guide to Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty is imperative to success, but fostering and maintaining loyalty takes a lot of work. This guide is here to help marketers build, execute, and maintain a successful loyalty initiative.

Marin Software: The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising

The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising
Latest research reveals 68% higher revenue per conversion for marketers who integrate their search & social advertising. In addition to the research results, this whitepaper also outlines 5 strategies and 15 tactics you can use to better integrate your search and social campaigns.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Jobs

    • Interactive Product Manager
      Interactive Product Manager (Western Governors University) - Salt Lake CityWestern Governors University, one of the 20 largest universities...
    • SEO Senior Analyst
      SEO Senior Analyst (University of Phoenix (Apollo Education Group)) - San FranciscoSEO Senior Analyst   Position Summary...
    • SEM & Biddable Media Manager
      SEM & Biddable Media Manager (Kepler Group LLC) - New YorkAs an Optimization & Innovation Manager at Kepler Group, you will be on the bleeding...