Marketers know that many people dislike personalized ads on the Internet, as there are countless studies and researches that have pointed to the fact. Others know this because they themselves like to browse online, and get the same feeling of having their privacy violated when they encounter say, an ad about a weight loss pill after reading a couple of articles about obesity.
The thing is, people don’t necessarily dislike the idea of a personalized ad. Far from it. In fact, personalized ads are actually designed for their benefit – to ensure that they will only get advertisements related to things or products that they are interested in. What people dislike about personalized ads is the feeling that in order to get that level of personalization, the marketers or advertisers have violated their privacy by tracking their behavior online without their permission.
The concern is legitimate, though. Advertisers and marketers DO track and collect people’s information and behavior online, a lot of times without any transparency. Many of these entities do so simply because many people don’t voice their outrage nor opt out of the tracking, which is another reason why people dislike tracking and the ads that result from them: there’s no transparency and there’s no way to opt out.
With most advertisements, the option to opt out is well out of the way, while some have no opt in control. Worse still are those that trick users into clicking by using fake clickable “x” links that actually do the same thing as clicking the ads. This is why users can’t be faulted for growing leery of personalized ads, given that many of them are made possible by gathering information without their permission.
What’s sad is that many advertisers seem to take the wrong lesson out of this. After realizing that users are wary of being tracked online, they opted to try and hide the activity through various means, which is a futile effort because once they use said tracking info for personalized ads, users find out that they’re being watched, thereby justifying the users’ original fears.
The proper approach here is not to hide the tracking activity from users, but to be as transparent as possible, and to make sure you get their permission. Explain that they are being tracked in order to make the future ads better suited, and give them the option of opting out. It’s true that most users will opt out when given the chance, but at least you get the full support of the willing people. A portion of willing users is always better than forcing tracking on everyone, only to earn the distrust of users. With transparency and permission, you are also conditioning the users to trust more in the advertising infrastructure, thereby grooming future users who will choose to opt in because they can appreciate the benefits and are not afraid of their privacy being breached.