Commentary

Study: Most Consumers Know They're Tracked Online

Online behavioral advertising might have been an obscure topic a few years ago, but the vast majority of consumers today say they are aware of the practice, according to new research from McCann Worldgroup.

The ad agency says that 65% of consumers it surveyed say they know that they are tracked online for marketing purposes, while 44% said they were aware that some free email programs are analyzed for ads. The report was based on a survey of more than 6,500 consumers in the U.S., U.K., Hong Kong, Japan, India and Chile.

The report overall seemed bullish on targeted ads. Researchers said that “many” people “expressed positivity” toward interest-based ads and that the “savviest consumers” try to manipulate marketers into sending them ads. “One man in the USA casually used his Google email account to get quick recommendations on an appliance he was looking to buy!” states the report.

At the same time, more than 20% of respondents said they “disabled” cookies in their browsers. That's around twice as many who said they never signed up for store loyalty cards -- even though information collected by those programs tends to be tied to people's names and addresses.

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Other studies have concluded that consumers aren't all that fond of targeted ads. Truste issued a report recently, based on a survey from Harris Interactive, which found that only 11% of respondents were comfortable with online behavioral advertising. (That figure doubled to 22% when respondents were told that online behavioral advertising was not tied to their personally identifiable information -- which industry groups generally define as name or contact information.)

Also, a 2009 study by professors at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication and the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law found that two out of three Web users don't want customized ads.

1 comment about "Study: Most Consumers Know They're Tracked Online".
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  1. Malcolm Rasala from Real Creatives Worldwide, October 20, 2011 at 2:09 a.m.

    So "a 2009 study by professors at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication and the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law found that two out of three Web users don't want customized ads"

    And Harris Interactive finds that 89% of consumers do not want targeted ads. Weird then that ads are targeted to annoy 89% of consumers. Something deeply unintelligent and counter productive here surely?

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