Consumers Split on Personalized Ads

In the year of the California Consumer Privacy Act, the data privacy movement is ascendant, and marketers are likely more aware of consumer concerns about tracking than ever before. But a fresh survey of 993 Internet users from audience intelligence firm DISQO suggests that marketers will need to continue navigating the trade-off between providing consumers the only type of ads they widely welcome — personalized ones matched to their interests — and transparently requesting consent for the kinds of tracking that make personalized ads possible.

All three of the cases in which survey respondents said they most widely react positively to ads fell into the personalization category. Fifty-two percent said they react positively to visual ads for products for which they’ve been shopping. Next most popular were ads in social feeds for brands consumers like or use (44% react positively) and text ads related to search history (25%).

Yet the survey indicates the backlash against personalized ads, encapsulated by the anti-tracking data privacy movement, is a powerful force as well. Thirty-six percent of consumers indicated they are displeased when they encounter text ads related to their search history.

The split suggests personalized ads have become a divisive issue — necessary to court more ad-receptive consumers but toxic with those more hostile to them. Firms interested in courting the ad-curious while avoiding violating the privacy rights of those who would prefer not to be tracked would do well to hesitate before propping up personalization as an uncontested good. Personalization is fine — for consumers who want it. The key is to ask for consent, offer consumers the chance to opt in, explain clearly why data is collected, and avoid amassing personal information that will not in some way benefit the experiences of the people from whom it flows.

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Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He joined Street Fight as a contributing writer in 2015, has compiled the daily newsletter since 2016, and has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018. Shoot him an email at jzappa@streetfightmag.com.