Personalized Advertising Gets Low Marks from UK Parents - eMarketer
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Personalized Advertising Gets Low Marks from UK Parents

Privacy concerns are key

Marketers seeking UK mothers online might want to think again when considering retargeted or personalized ads. A recent poll of UK users of online parent site Mumsnet showed respondents had little love for being pursued so directly, with privacy concerns a primary reason why.

An April 2017 survey of more than 1,000 Mumsnet users in the UK found some positive sentiment toward personalized ads: 46% of respondents agreed that personalized ads made sense since “personalization is the future” and 49% said they would rather see “ads that fit my age, personal situation or online behavior than random ads.” But beyond that, respondents were either clearly negative or generally more against than in favor of personalized or retargeted advertising.

The study found only 6% of respondents liked seeing ads from a previously viewed website show up on subsequent sites, while just 16% were indifferent about it. The largest share of respondents (32%) said they “hate” the practice. Moreover, about two-thirds of respondents would be unhappy to see targeted advertising based on either their online behavior or on data they had given an advertiser.

Ultimately, the study found, 68% of respondents would not be more likely to buy an advertised product because of personalized advertising.

“It’s in nobody’s interests to show people ads they don’t want to see, or that make them scrabble for the ‘close tab’ button,” said Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts of the study’s results. “If personalized advertising isn’t done sensitively, the risk is that users will opt for the nuclear ad blocker option. Transparency is absolutely key—web users need to be consulted, to feel informed and to be offered tools that allow them to easily opt out.”

In fact, an opt-out feature was the only pro-advertising option that received overwhelming support among the Mumsnet users polled: 81% of respondents “would like to choose which ads follow me around and which don’t.”

A desire for better control of the personalized ads respondents encounter is related to privacy. Respondents to Mumsnet’s study were keen to keep their online activities away from prying eyes, and in a survey base primarily composed of parents, that often means the children with whom they share devices.

Services that Internet Users in Select Countries in Western Europe Would Expect in Exchange for Sharing Personal Information*, July 2016 (% of respondents)

Nearly eight in 10 respondents said they worried about ads for adult products showing up when their children use their devices, and 85% were concerned that things they don’t want to share—for instance, gifts for spouses or intimate or medical products—will pop up when other people look at their screen.

There’s little data tracking about whether internet users who aren’t parents have similar concerns, but a July 2016 study by Retail Week and Osborne Clarke showed that only 23% of adult UK internet users who share personal information expect the result to be personalized ads when shopping digitally.

The UK response rate was typical for Western Europe. An average of just 26% of respondents in the seven countries in the region queried would expect to see personalized ads in exchange for sharing personal data.

Respondents to that study were much more interested in receiving tangible benefits for sharing personal information. There’s little reason to believe UK parents wouldn’t feel the same.

—Cliff Annicelli

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