It’s no secret that social media has become a playground for targeted advertising over the last decade. Whether you’re watching a YouTube video, scrolling down your Instagram feed, or tapping through Snapchat Stories, it is nearly impossible not to come across a targeted ad. Based on internet browsing history, previous ad clicks, and other online activity, algorithms anticipate products each person might like. Because it’s based on specific individual interests, it is fairly unique to everyone.
The exponential growth of this feature and ubiquity of ads on social media both raise the question: Do people even like it? Is it useful that an ad for blenders pops up after you searched for kitchenware yesterday, or is it just annoying and a bit creepy? After doing a survey of our own, we found that most people fall into one of three groups.
There has been considerable chatter against the use of this technology, as some feel that it’s a breach of privacy. Knowing that your every move is tracked and then used to sell you a product can leave some feeling spied on. HubSpot Research reports that 91 percent of people believe ads today surpass the level of intrusiveness they held three years ago. When we surveyed folks on if they like or dislike this feature, one millennial said, “Dislike, because it just gives me goosebumps and reminds me that I’m being watched.” To combat this, 21.7 percent of people online use ad blockers. Keeping the ads out and protecting personal information is of the utmost importance to this group.
Some people are more in the middle of the road when it comes to targeted ads. While they are slightly concerned with their data being tracked, there are considerable upsides to it—and they are not taking any actions to fight the new norm. On average, 40 percent of users neither trust nor distrust the ads they see across all social media platforms. Another millennial states, “If I’m going to receive ads, I’d definitely prefer them to be about things I’m actually interested in.” Most agree that ads can be annoying, but it looks like the key to this marketing tactic for this group is increased relevance in the ads they are shown.
Believe it or not, there are plenty of people that are all for ad personalization. Many find the product suggestions helpful, and discover new brands easily. One Gen Zer says, “I find really cute clothes, shoes, jewelry, etc. that I would not have found before.” The customization of the ad experience can cut down on those ads that do not resonate. People are shown ads for products they like, and they in turn buy them—it’s a win-win. Though there isn’t much of a generational difference when it comes to opinions about these advertisements, there is a difference in how they act after seeing them. Younger generations are more likely to buy products that are advertised to them, especially Gen Z.
Whether people love it, hate it, or don’t have any strong opinions, ad personalization is here to stick around for a while. Your data will continue to be collected, synthesized, and used to place products on your timeline. But does knowing that this is the future make it feel any less weird?
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