In May 2010, a DM2PRO and AudienceScience survey found that 72% of responding publishers offered their clients some form of audience targeting other than contextual.
The benefits to publishers of doing so were numerous and spanned a range of revenue-friendly reasons. These included higher CPMs, better performance, the ability to sell more inventory and the acquisition of new customers.
Internet users however, do not see the same positive side of targeting. Almost 72% of US adult internet users were concerned about the extent of information websites were collecting about them, according to a December 2009 Future of Privacy Forum survey. Just 6.5% disagreed.
Another discouraging sign that awareness of behavioral targeting may discourage consumers even more comes from a study commissioned by PreferenceCentral, a vendor that partners with advertisers to allow consumers management of the ads they receive. Respondents’ receptivity to targeted ads decreased after learning those ads were based on tracking their past behavior.
However, two factors in the study were found to alleviate concerns—assurances that the information collected about them was anonymous and non-personally identifiable, and provision of a control solution that allowed them to manage the information used about them.
Marketers must do a better job of marketing this technology if they hope to keep using it. But education may not be enough. Critics note that the information gleaned about users is so detailed it may be “anonymous” in name only. Plus the promise itself of receiving “better” ads may not be the most tantalizing offer for many web users.
If consumers are not given effective controls over how and what is tracked about them, they may believe their only resort is government intervention. The US Federal Trade Commission said it is currently considering a do-not-track list for online advertising, similar to the popular do-not-call list for telemarketers.
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