Study: Consumers Don't Know What AdChoices Privacy Icon Is

After Three Years Just 6% Awareness Of the Industry's Opt-Out Program

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That consumer education campaign touting the ad industry's privacy program? Well, to use industry parlance, it didn't exactly move the needle.

Research from Parks Associates comparing consumer awareness in 2011 to 2013 of the Digital Ad Alliance's AdChoices icon -- the little blue triangle seen primarily in targeted display advertising -- indicates efforts to help people understand the program have had little impact.

The AdChoices icon sparked 6% awareness among survey participants in 2013 compared to 5% in 2011, reported Parks Associates.

According to the research firm's "Harnessing the Power of Big Data: New Media and Advertising" study released today, 70% of people questioned in 2013 who had noticed the icon clicked on it, up from 60% in 2011.

However, the report suggests the icon's intent is not entirely clear, noting 59% of those who had noticed the icon but did not click it were not aware they could opt-out from targeted ads through the icon program.

Indeed, compared to 2011, a larger percentage of those who clicked on the icon but decided not to opt-out from ad targeting in 2013 said they didn't understand they could opt-out through it. Around 27% said so in 2013, nearly double the 14% who said the same in 2011.

The Digital Advertising Alliance, a coalition of the largest ad industry trade groups, launched the AdChoices icon program in 2010 and announced its "Your AdChoices" public education campaign, created pro bono by McCann Worldgroup's MRM in Salt Lake City, in January 2012.

The DAA took umbrage with the Parks Associates report, and cited a 2012 Annenberg School for Communication study which found that 20% of people surveyed believed they'd seen a triangular AdChoices icon in online ads. However, while 30% said it was true that the icon "means you can get the company that sent you the ad to stop sending you certain types of ads," 17% said it was false and 52% said they did not know if that was true.

The Parks study also evaluated awareness and engagement with the lesser-known Consumer Choice icon which is also used by Digital Advertising Alliance participants. Data mentioned here is based on the research firm's Q3 2013 Consumers and Technology survey of 3,000 adults in U.S. broadband households, ages 18 and above.

"Among consumers who clicked on either icon but did not opt-out, over 50% either want to receive personalized ads or are not concerned with the types of Internet ads they receive," said Heather Way, senior analyst, Parks Associates, in a press statement.

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