Free Content And Targeted Ads Leave Users Most Comfortable

A survey of over 1000 US Internet users reveals that the majority of those surveyed favor free content accompanied by relevant targeted ads. The research, conducted by PreferenceCentral, also shows that attitudes and preferences shift significantly when consumers are provided with education about behavioral targeting or when they are offered the ability to control targeted ad exposure.
According to the study, certain factors play a role in consumers’ comfort level with online advertising. When educated about behavioral targeting, 29% of respondents became less comfortable with the tradeoff of free content for targeted ads. However, when subsequently informed that behavioral targeting data is anonymous, non-personally identifiable, 35% of these Internet users became more comfortable, indicating a need for consumer education on this topic.
PreferenceCentral offers a solution that allows advertisers and their partners to provide consumers with a way to control their own online advertising experience. The company was encouraged by the finding that, when presented with the option of using its product as a means to exercise more control over their exposure to targeted ads and transparency into the data used by advertisers, 70% of Internet users expressed interest in using such a tool, with 33% stating they are very to extremely interested. Additionally, 41% of consumers became more comfortable and were 27% more willing to receive targeted, relevant ads in exchange for free content if they were given a control solution.
One may surmise that the findings can be extended to other means of becoming informed about and controlling targeted ad exposure – in other words, the increased willingness to accept targeted advertising would increase similarly if the Internet users were presented with options similar to PreferenceCentral.

The study also found that, across all tradeoff exercises, only about 10% of consumers expressed a preference for paying for content with no advertising.
PreferenceCentral states that they sought to build upon past research with its consumer survey, which asked consumers to state their preferences for tailored online advertising in the context of real-world trade-off scenarios. It is the company’s perspective that contrary to prior research, the survey results reveal Internet users are more likely to prefer targeted online ads when they are asked to make real-world, value-for-value trade-offs, such as free access to Internet content.
The survey, according to the company, went a step beyond past research by reiterating the exact questions from recent studies, including the Annenberg-Berkley survey “Americans Reject Tailored Advertising” and similar research on the topic. When asked simple, single-option questions, PreferenceCentral generated similar results as those reported in the Annenberg-Berkley study; only a minority of respondents indicated that they wanted to receive tailored online ads. However, while past researchers concluded that the reason behind consumers’ negative response was privacy concerns, the PreferenceCentral study probed further and found that their primary reason was a dislike for annoying online ads, not privacy concerns.
“The core takeaways for the advertising industry are that it’s not enough to just educate consumers on targeted advertising; we must also provide meaningful choice and control over their online ad experience,” said Dr. Karl Lendenmann, vice president of marketing and analytics for PreferenceCentral parent company Datran Media. “For online publishers, these results mean that they should be offering multiple content-access models to optimize appeal and monetization.”
Recently, the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) released their own research that shows behaviorally targeted ads are more than twice as valuable in terms of prices advertisers pay and more than twice as effective in converting consumers who click on ads into buyers than normal run-of-network ads. With such strong value tied to behavioral targeting, PreferenceCentral states it is crucial to obtain and understand a more complete view of consumers’ perspectives on online advertising.