Study: Consumers Open to Ads on Tablets, Least Interested in Mobile Ads

Today the Pew Internet Project put out some research arguing pretty unequivocally that consumers don't want to be tracked or targeted even if it might mean that the ads and content they see are more "relevant" or aligned with their interests. A survey released at the end of last month by Upstream and YouGov (US and UK respondents) also contains a warning of sorts to publishers and developers about advertising overload.

In this survey consumers expressed frustration over the volume ads and promotions they were receiving. Two-thirds said they received too many ads, while slightly less than a quarter of respondents said they saw the "right amount" of advertising. 

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Consumers found ads on their phones to be the "most unacceptable" vs. other media channels or devices. This is consistent with lots of survey data that show consumers are ambivalent or hostile to mobile advertising. However mobile ads typically outperform PC advertising, which is a paradox: people don't want it yet they respond to it. 

Q: Which ONE of the following electronic devices would you find it MOST unacceptable to receive unwanted advertising on?

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Interestingly these survey respondents were much less hostile to ads on their tablets. In fact, they more were accepting of ads on their tablets than they were ads on their PCs. However when a version of the question was asked in a more positive way, PC or laptop where the top choices. 

Q: How you would prefer to receive an offer or promotion through an electronic device that you use / own?

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In terms of positive features that consumers said would make them respond to advertising, the top answers were:

  1. Clearly tailored to my personal interests
  2. Specific to my location
  3. Contextually relevant to something I'd just been doing 

Q: Which, if any, of the following would make you MORE likely to respond positively to marketing messages?

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In terms of ad units or types, email was the most favorably received among several categories that included SMS, paid search, display, QR codes and augmented reality. By implication email advertising was the least intrusive of the types presented to these respondents.

Q: Which, if any, of the following types of message would you be likely to respond positively to if you received these adverts or promotions?

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In the Pew survey consumers were willing to sacrifice ad and content relevance to avoid tracking and targeting. Put another way, they declined the idea of improved relevance through tracking and personalization. In the YouGov survey respondents said they would be most inclined to respond to ads "clearly tailored to their personal interests" and that were specific to their locations.

The two surveys taken together reflect that consumers want advertising and content that is relevant but doesn't rely on data mining. In mobile -- where consumers were least interested in ads -- there's a higher burden of relevance than on the PC. But that can be achieved in ways that don't require behavioral targeting or data mining but rely on location and context. 

Marketers and publishers must be careful to respect user desires for privacy as they try and fulfill the demand for relevant and "tailored" information. This is a bit of a tightrope to walk. However the industry must walk it.