Do Consumers Even Want Personalized Ads?

Jun 16, 2021 | Privacy & Security

Do consumers even want personalized ads on their devices?  

The answer is yes and no.  

Yes, they want a personalized shopping experience for all the reasons marketers cite in defense of their practices: targeted ads matched to immediate needs and interests save shoppers time and money and can enhance their online experience.  

But also no, increasingly consumers don’t want personalization when it comes at the expense of their privacy

And that’s the kicker, isn’t it? As brands continue to embrace data-driven sales strategies and invest in technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning to go beyond personalization into hyper-personalization (think web sites that already know your clothing size and color preferences, for example), consumers are growing louder in their demand for better data protection. 

It’s the business challenge of this decade: how to engage and convert customers in a fast-paced digital market while being good and compliant stewards of their personal data? There are two sides to this coin: personalization is improving the user experience, but data abuse is growing—and consumers are noticing. 

Those of us in the privacy space completely understand the problem and the fix and are helping brands rapidly bring it to market: building privacy-first products and services that give consumers power over their privacy, and companies an easy way to engage without collecting, managing and risking personal data. 

It’s a ‘middle ground’ solution that brands must rapidly engage or risk alienating their customers. The stats tell the story: 

  • As far back as 2012, Pew Research found 68 percent of US consumers don’t like targeted ads and disapprove of the invasive data surveillance that drives them. 
  • Seven years later in 2019 Pew Research found an even higher number of US consumers, at 81 percent,believes the potential risks from data-driven products and services outweigh the benefits. 
  • This past February in Europe, YouGov polled 2,000 consumers in France and Germany and found 57 percent don’t want personalized ads on their devices and feel “deeply uncomfortable” about the granular categorization based on highly personal information, such as illness, pregnancy and religion, that drives it.   

Media and ad experts get the point:  

Yashina Burns, Director, Data Privacy and Legal Affairs at Deep Intent, told Forbes: “While CPRA won’t become law until 2023, other states will likely create similar regulations in the interim and further push the ad industry to adopt targeting technologies that are more conscious of consumer privacy. Marketing leaders need to get ready now by focusing on privacy-friendly solutions that limit the use of sensitive personal information. Publishers and platforms that offer compliant data collection across platforms – especially in the healthcare space where privacy is of the utmost importance – will be well-positioned to continue the services they offer to marketers amid the coming regulatory change.” 

Mike Edmonds, CEO of global digital services giant Pactera EDGE says similar: “The challenge moving forward into 2021 will be the continued delivery of personalized experiences while maintaining compliance with existing privacy laws and those regulations appearing on the horizon. It’s a delicate balancing act marketers will have to pull off as consumers increasingly embrace the hyper-personalization experience, but also demand transparency when it comes to how their information is being used.”  

The YouGov poll of consumers in France and Germany we mentioned earlier says it’s the behind the scenes or back door nature of personalization that gives people the creeps. This perception isn’t helped by the fact consent to datapractices is often so convoluted and tied to long-winded terms and conditions and privacy policies that consumersdon’t know exactly what it is they’re agreeing to. 

The YouGov research commissioning agency says, “The EU has a unique opportunity to tackle these issues by making sure existing privacy rules are enforced and by bringing in new rules via the Digital Services Act (DSA). We’re calling on Members of the European Parliament to amend the DSA to ensure users can see all the ways they’ve been targeted and prevent surveillance overreach.”  

We’re still waiting to see how US consumers might get similar, national data and privacy protections. In the meantime, we suggest brands recognize both the opportunity to deliver consumer applications with privacy at their core, and the responsibility to comply with tightening regulations. Discover how Sudo Platform, our complete business toolkit for rapidly developing branded privacy and cybersecurity solutions, can help. 

Photo by on Unsplash

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