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Personalized Ads: A Love-Hate Relationship

April 4, 2019

Seen any personalized ads lately?blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Of course you have.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Geoffrey James explains:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Unless you’ve been living under a rock on Mars, you know that your activity on (and off) the web is constantly monitored and evaluated so that applications and businesses can create a “personalized experience” for you.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

That’s why you keep seeing online ads that match whatever you might have searched for in the past few days.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

dog with smartphone robots hovering in air suggesting things he might like to buy personalized ads via bots online tracking

How do consumers feel about that?blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Well, they’re conflicted– to put it mildly.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

On the one hand, a lot of people find personalized ads a bit “creepy.” And more than a few of them tell their friends about those creepy experiences:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

A new study by customer experience (CX) analytics firm InMoment found that at least 75 percent of consumers surveyed think most forms of ad personalization are at least “somewhat creepy.”

And consumers don’t keep this information to themselves: one in five respondents tells friends about marketing experiences that they consider creepy, and one in 10 shares “Big Brother-type experiences” on social media…

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highAnd then there’s the “ethics factor”:blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

According to a survey conducted by cybersecurity firm RSA, most people (83% of respondents) don’t think it’s ethical for companies to use their personal information for targeted ads.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Another finding from the RSA survey: when a company gets hacked, consumers blame the company, not the hacker.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

So that must mean consumers don’t like personalized ads, right?
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Wrong.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

A study by digital marketing performance agency Adlucent found that 71% of respondents prefer ads that are tailored to their personalized interests and shopping habits.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

They see it as a way to discover new products, while reducing the number of irrelevant ads they’re subjected to.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Another finding from the same study:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Personalized ads also boost engagement. We found that people were almost twice as likely to click through an ad featuring an unknown brand if the ad was tailored to their preferences.

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highThe conflict about personalization comes down to this: people appreciate the convenience of targeted ads, but they don’t want personalized services at the expense of their privacy.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

The key to solving this dilemma for brands: transparency. Telling consumers yes, we’re tracking you, here’s the personal information we’re using, and here’s where we get it.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

A Harvard Business Review study found that when brands use highly sensitive data to track customers (sexual orientation, political beliefs, certain search topics), it makes people uncomfortable– like they’re being spied on.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

However, they’re more willing to tolerate the use of general information: things like their name and shopping history.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

The HBR study offered 5 suggestions for digital marketers who want to succeed with targeted ads:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

1. Stay away from sensitive information (race, sexual orientation, medical conditions)

2. Commit to transparency (at least be willing to provide information about data-use practices upon request)

3. Exercise restraint (you lose customers when ads feel intrusive or inappropriate)

4. Explain why you collect data (“it will help us generate more appropriate and useful ads”)

5. Use traditional data collection, too (give people a chance to directly state their preferences)

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highBottom line: to maintain trust, brands have to respect the customer and the customer’s privacy.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Harvard Business Review puts it this way:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

There’s still a lot we don’t know about how people respond to online data collection and ad targeting, and norms around privacy may change over time as young digital natives become consumers and technology further penetrates our lives….blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

(but) in the end, all ad targeting should be customer-centric—in the service of creating value for consumers.blank vertical space, 24 pixels highwoman asking dog what would make him happy right now dog runs off brings back lease and plastic poop retrieval bags wants to go for walkblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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blank vertical space, 16 pixels highAbout Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, like your brand needs to be.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 40 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from Venetia de Blocq van Kuffeler editor The Diploma

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. RKLikesReeses permalink
    April 4, 2019 11:47 AM

    Nope. Not for this consumer. Ugh!
    I use a private setting for reduced tracking & when I shop online I do my “window shopping” in the browser, not the app. Does that reduce the likelihood of getting targeted price breaks? Maybe. But I don’t buy much so it’s not a big loss.
    I also clear my cookies/cache whenever I open a new browser window. Keeps the web crud to a minimum. So…I rarely see anything personalized. Tbh I rarely see ads, partly bec I avoid sites that sprout them like weeds. And I never ever click on “blind links,” promoted sites, or the few ads I see. All that said, I can see how people & businesses might benefit from them when they’re done well – and ethically. Fascinating post! Had no idea that so many people are OK with them. 🙂


    • April 5, 2019 8:25 AM

      OK, when it comes to a love-hate relationship with ads, I’m gonna take that as a Hate vote… 😊

      Well, I’m sure you’re not alone, RK, and I think if brands were smart, they’d give people a way to opt out of targeted ads– I mean, why alienate someone who might buy from you eventually?

      I, too, was surprised that so many people prefer personalized ads. I’m guessing it’s because most people realize that just like there’s no “free lunch,” there’s no “free internet,” and they’re gonna get hit with ads anyway, so why not make ’em personalized ads that, to some extent at least, align with their preferences?

      Now that you’ve left a comment here, I will, of course, be bombarding you with special offers… just kidding!! 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. spookster01 permalink
    April 4, 2019 7:31 PM

    Hi Mark… I’ve felt the same way sometimes… it does feel creepy. Can you remember when there was no internet, cell phones, or even streaming? What the heck did we do back then??


    • April 5, 2019 8:48 AM

      Ha! Hi, John! Yes, I can remember all those things, and I’ve asked myself the same question: what did we do back when it was an offline world?? I’m sure we read more, and, to be honest, we probably watched more TV (tho maybe not– seems like everyone is “binging” on Netflix these days).

      I think a big part of the “creep factor” is discovering that computer algorithms can read our minds, so to speak, and intuit our behavior. I often listen to Pandora internet radio while I’m working. You can create a station by typing in a single song title or artist. The station then plays what it thinks you might like– and I’ve discovered a lot of great music that way. Am I that predictable?? Hey, I thought I was unique!!

      Ah, well– we must soldier on!!– and thanks as always for your support!! 😊


  3. April 8, 2019 8:05 PM

    I agree with no.1. And other points from HBR. I think sending instant happy comics like yours might be something to offer..? 🙂


    • April 13, 2019 1:19 PM

      An excellent idea!!– “sending instant happy comics like mine”… brilliant!! I mean– who wouldn’t want to see me turn up in their feed??? Oh, wait– I guess that’s what all brands tell themselves… 😕😂 Ha!– thanks, Jean!

      Liked by 1 person


  1. Personalized Ads: We Love 'Em, We Hate 'Em, We're Conflicted - Internet Marketing Tips
  2. Personalized Ads: We Love ‘Em, We Hate ‘Em, We’re Conflicted | Online Sales Guide Tips

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