Morning must-read: Study shows voters do not like targeted ads

By on July 25, 2012

new study from the Annenberg School for Communication found that 86% of voters do not want political campaigns to match ads to their interests.

The results of the study come at a time when national and local political campaigns are steadily increasing their use of technology that traditional marketers use to tailor advertising. For political campaigns, the process is called microtargeting. Information about voters — like the charitable donations they make, the type of credit card they use and the Congressional district they live in — is combined with voter registration records, and the result allows campaigns to send certain types of messages to voters.

The survey uncovered other noteworthy attitudes by Americans toward the targeting and tailoring of political advertising. For example:

64% of Americans say their likelihood of voting for a candidate they support would decrease (37% say decrease a lot, 27% say decrease somewhat) if they learn a candidate’s campaign organization buys information about their online activities and their neighbor’s online activities—and then sends them different political messages it thinks will appeal to them. (This activity is common during the 2012 election.)

70% of adult Americans say their likelihood of voting for a candidate they support would decrease (50% say decrease a lot, 22% say decrease somewhat) if they learn a candidate’s campaign organization uses Facebook to send ads to the friends of a person who “likes” the candidate’s Facebook page. The ads contain a friend’s photo and proclaim her support of the candidate. (This activity, too, is taking place during the 2012 election.)

77% of Americans agree (including 35% who agree strongly) that “If I knew a website I visit was sharing information about me with political advertisers, I would not return to the site.” (Many sites, independently or through hird parties, do share such data.)

85% agree (including 47% who agree strongly) that “If I found out that Facebook was sending me ads for political candidates based on my profile information that I had set to private, I would be angry.” (Facebook does do this.)

The survey’s conclusion: “It’s hard to escape the conclusion that our survey is tapping into a deep discomfort over behavioral targeting and tailored advertising when it comes to politics. Political campaigning is moving in a direction starkly at odds with what the public believes should take place.”

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