Watching Consumers Who Are Watching Themselves Get Watched

Dumenco's Trendrr Chart of the Week

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You've probably read a bit about a new study/survey released this week titled "Americans Reject Tailored Advertising and Three Activities That Enable It." (Attention Marketers: The long version of the title is "Contrary to What Marketers Say, Americans Reject Tailored Advertising and Three Activities That Enable It.") It was the result of a collaboration between researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Berkeley; you can download a PDF (for free) here.

The gist of the study: Two-thirds of Americans "do not want marketers to tailor advertisements to their interests" -- and the proportion goes up when people find out exactly what sort of behavioral-tracking stuff marketers and media companies have been up to lately (see abstract below).

Thus this week's Trendrr chart (or chart set, actually), which takes a look at online buzz -- among both mainstream media and blogs -- about the issue. A few notes and observations:

  • The Penn-Berkeley study is, as you'd expect, causing a spike in media and blog coverage using terms specific to the debate, including "online privacy" and "behavioral targeting." Interest waxes and wanes, of course (Advertising Week seems to have prompted another recent spike), but we may be at a tipping point in terms of momentum because the Penn-Berkeley study will only empower politicians who have been focusing on the issue, including Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), whose staff has been sending around a link to the article he recently wrote about the subject -- "Behavioral ads: The need for privacy protection" -- for The Hill.

  • As of this morning, Google Blog Search is actively indexing 91,234 posts that reference "online privacy." Here's one worth reading (a guest post by Heather West, a policy analyst at the Center for Democracy & Technology, at Wired's Geek Dad blog): Is Online Privacy a Generational Issue?

  • Google News, as of this morning, is actively indexing 175 stories that reference "behavioral marketing," which is, of course, a creepy term (it makes me picture sweaty test subjects in laboratories with electrodes stuck to their foreheads). Note to behavioral marketers: You need better marketing. The term "Tailored marketing" still sounds a little creepy to me. "Artisanal messaging," anybody? (I kid!)

  • Finally, a bit more from the Penn-Berkeley study: "While privacy advocates have lambasted behavioral targeting for tracking and labeling people in ways they do not know or understand, marketers have defended the practice by insisting it gives Americans what they want: advertisements and other forms of content that are as relevant to their lives as possible. 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."

    ~ ~ ~
    Dumenco's Trendrr Chart of the Week is produced in collaboration with Wiredset, the New York digital agency behind Trendrr, a social- and digital-media tracking service. More background here. A basic Trendrr account is free; Trendrr Pro, which offers more robust tracking and reporting tools, comes in various paid flavors (get the details here).

    Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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