Americans Reject Tailored Advertising

October 8th, 2009

A very important report was officially released Wednesday by the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology (in conjunction with the Social Science Research Network (SSRN)). Titled “Americans Reject Tailored Advertising,” the report appears to change the rules of the online advertising game.

The report has five co-authors, led by the well-respected Joseph Turow of the Annenberg School for Communication.

The overview succinctly states:

Contrary to what many marketers claim, most adult Americans (66%) do not want marketers to tailor advertisements to their interests. Moreover, when Americans are informed of three common ways that marketers gather data about people in order to tailor ads, even higher percentages—between 73% and 86%–say they would not want such advertising….

The survey uncovered other attitudes by Americans toward tailored content and the collection of information about them. For example:

• Even when they are told that the act of following them on websites will take place anonymously, Americans’ aversion to it remains: 68% “definitely” would not allow it, and 19% would “probably” not allow it.
• A majority of Americans also does not want discounts or news fashioned specifically for them, though the percentages are smaller than the proportion rejecting ads.
• 69% of American adults feel there should be a law that gives people the right to know everything that a website knows about them.
• 92% agree there should be a law that requires “websites and advertising companies to delete all stored information about an individual, if requested to do so.”
• 63% believe advertisers should be required by law to immediately delete information about their internet activity.

The report is authoritative and easily digested. It is a must-read for all concerned about the future of publishing and the role that advertising plays within. The implications of the report are featured in my study on Adobe’s acquisition of Omniture, to be released October 12th.