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Growing Confusion about Behavioral Ad Targeting

 
eMarketer reports that Internet users have been sending mixed messages about targeted advertising. Sometimes say they appreciate the relevance; sometimes they would provide personal information to facilitate targeting; and yet they also report concerns about advertisers and publishers having too much data.

While this suggests that consumers may be confused about online privacy and what behavioral targeting entails, research from online ad preference management provider PreferenceCentral calls into question whether consumer education is a solution for marketers.

Asked if they would prefer to pay for content, view targeted advertisements in exchange for free content, or receive limited free content supported by untargeted ads, 58 percent of US internet users chose targeted ads.

However, their willingness to receive those types of ads decreased after they became more educated about how behavioral targeting worked.

Nearly half of internet users said awareness of behavioral targeting did not change their comfort level. But, only 14 percent became more comfortable with education, while twice as many said they were less so.

After behavioral targeting education, 50 percent of users preferred to receive limited content and avoid targeting, compared with 37.3 percent who remained willing to be targeted in exchange for fully free content.

Putting control into a user's hands over the ads served and the types of information used for targeting, however, restored a higher level of comfort with targeted advertising. The conclusion: education without effective empowerment may not be enough for consumers to get comfortable with targeting.

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