Could the fear of the unknown be causing skepticism about audience targeting in online advertising? A study commissioned by PubMatic suggests consumers are less skeptical of third-party data collection when they know it's collected anonymously.
PubMatic, a sell-side platform for premium publishers (which utilizes audience targeting capabilities), teamed up with the research firm Knowledge Networks to conduct a survey of 500 U.S. Internet
users (full results
available free with registration). Users were asked for their opinions about audience targeting before and after understanding how anonymous data is collected and hearing the benefits of ad targeting.
Most consumers in the study knew that their behavior might be tracked for the purpose of advertising (71 percent) ― but only 40 percent understood that that data was anonymous.
That important piece of information could make a big difference in how consumers view behavioral targeting, the report suggests. When participants understood that the data collection was anonymous and has potential benefits (enabling more relevant advertising and helping to subsidize free content), more than half (53 percent) changed their minds and approved of the targeting.
The study basically says consumers wouldn't mind behavioral targeting so much if they understood it. If that revelation is true, it supports some of the self-regulation efforts
publishers have begun to educate consumers about audience targeting and give them the option to opt out.
Other vendor studies have found similar results related to consumers and data collection. For instance, a survey earlier this year by Krux Digital
found 80 percent of U.S. Internet users would feel “more positive” about websites providing controls for managing profile information, and 85 percent would use centralized tools for managing profile information and controlling how that data was being used.
Some studies have also found that, when given a choice, consumers don't opt out of behavioral targeting entirely. “If the consumer wants out, you have to let them out,” said Better Advertising CEO Scott Meyer, speaking at the PubMatic Ad Revenue conference last fall (see “Tips for taking control of your audience data
”). “Then you’ll be in a position to do the kind of data management to generate revenue.”
PubMatic came to a similar conclusion from its survey. “Whether it is through self-regulation or legislation, when given a choice about anonymous tracking, Internet users deserve to have all the facts about how it works and the benefits they derive from it before making a decision," said PubMatic CEO Rajeev Goel in a press release about the results. "Once they are appropriately armed with this information, they should have the means at their disposal to easily implement a ‘do-not-track’ option if they prefer to, or not to."