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Think Ads That Follow You on Social Media Are Creepy? You're Not Alone

By Tracey E. Schelmetic October 06, 2022

What helps customers make product buying decisions? While it’s certainly about price and quality, another element has entered the mix: The security of their personal customer information.

Most of us have experienced an ad “following” us across digital channels. It might be a check on a product via our phone’s web browser that leads to ads for a particular items following us on social media channels. While some brands are no doubt proud of their persistence, most of us find it utterly creepy and stalkerish – not to mention annoying.

Perion Network recently commissioned a study conducted by Lucid that ferreted out consumers’ preferences when it comes to personal information. The study revealed that:

  • When ads follow consumers, negativity rises. Eighty-nine percent of consumers have noticed an ad (or the brand behind the ad) “following them around” (technically called “retargeting”) on other sites. Seventy-three percent feel ads/brands following them around are suspicious, annoying, makes them feel skeptical or creepy.
  • Consumers are not falling for the argument that they’re being followed in the interest of showing them relevant ads. Given the stark choice between relevance and privacy, 70 percent of people come down on the side of privacy.
  • Consumers expect companies to take the lead in protecting privacy. Eighty percent of consumers are angered by the fact that there’s no way to tell if an ad is tracking them, and they want brands to take the lead in ending that practice.

There are real benefits to making consumers aware they’re not being tracked. Seventy-nine percent of consumers would favor ads that include a clearly visible seal or other indication that guaranteed that the brand would not follow them around if they clicked it. Another 58 percent would think more favorably of a brand whose ads included a privacy-safe seal. Overall, the vast majority – a whopping 95 percent – believe it is vital to buy from brands they trust.

Not only do consumers appear to value their privacy more than we may have been to believe – but they have made it clear their spending preferences could end up depending the extent to which brands protect privacy.

“I’ve been carefully observing the privacy trend, but even so, the overwhelming antipathy to digital privacy invasion was still stunning,” said Doron Gerstel, Perion’s CEO. “This is an existential moment for brands; while the U.S. government looks to enforce online privacy, the survey is a clarion call for companies who are waiting for a new regulatory framework and the looming cookieless future in 2024.”

Edited by Erik Linask
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