NEWS21 March 2019

Public less favourable towards online ads when light shone on ecosystem

Data analytics Media News Privacy UK

UK – People are less accepting of online advertising when they find out more information about how their personal data may be used to target ads, suggests research from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Online advertising laptop news_crop

Two-thirds of respondents ( 63%) who took part in the online survey initially said it was acceptable for websites to display advertising in exchange for the site being free to access.

However, after respondents were shown an explanation of the adtech ecosystem, including the types of information websites share with advertisers, this figure fell to just over a third ( 36%), while 43% said it was unacceptable, up from 14% prior to the information being shown.

Although respondents were aware that their browsing, search and purchase history is used to display relevant adverts, this doesn’t necessarily mean they find it acceptable that this information is shared with companies. For example, 76% of respondents are aware their browsing history may be used to target ads to them, but 51% said they think it’s unacceptable.

The research, commissioned by the ICO and conducted by Harris Interactive with advice from Ofcom, was carried out with the aim of understanding public awareness and of how online advertising is served based on their personal data, choices and behaviour.

Over half ( 54%) of participants agreed that they would prefer to see ads that are relevant to them rather than seemingly random adverts, while 20% disagreed.

When asked about how much control people feel they have over which ads are served to them, 42% said they felt they had no control, while 44% said they find the ads they are shown to be irrelevant, compared to a third ( 34%) who said they are relevant.

Among respondents who recalled being shown examples of advertising preference messages (which have become more prevalent since the implementation of GDPR), over half ( 53%) said they never click on such messages to find out how ads are personalised to them. A third ( 35%) said they clicked these sometimes and 12% said they always did.

Additionally, 41% of respondents said they had used some means of attempting to stop websites from showing adverts, mainly by using an ad blocker, using options within an advert, or by deleting marketing cookies.

2,342 adults aged 18+ responded to a 10-minute online survey. Fieldwork was conducted 25th-27th February 2019. The results of the survey are weighted to be nationally representative of the UK population by age and gender.