U.S. consumers not buying Web advertisers’ ‘relevance’ argument for tracking

Marketers and advertisers constantly say that their practice of tracking us as we move around the Web is a good thing because it lets them present us with more relevant ads and site content. But a new survey from Adobe and Edelman Berland (a division of public relations giant Edelman) suggests most people aren’t buying it.

The vast majority of U.S. consumers, 88 percent, feel that there are "too many technologies tracking and analyzing our behavior," according to study. Eighty-five percent said companies are collecting too much information on consumers. And 86 percent feel that they have “lost control of their privacy.”

Only about 28 percent of consumers said they find it at least somewhat valuable when a website “makes personalized product and service recommendations” to them. The same percentage of people said they thought it was “not very valuable” or “not at all valuable.” Most people, 42 percent, didn’t know or care one way or the other.

The study is based on interviews with 8750 consumers in the United States, Europe and Asia. Consumers were chosen to represent an accurate cross section of all consumers in each country, then asked a variety of questions about consumer perceptions of online advertising, behavior tracking and personal privacy.

Adobe’s interest in the subject: Aside from selling the design tools we’re familiar with (Photoshop, Illustrator, and so on) Adobe operates a large Web advertising management and analytics platform used by large enterprises and ad agencies.

The responses to several of the survey questions are so negative on marketers and advertisers and their practices that it’s almost comical.

For instance, on the last slide in the deck we find the question: “Which profession provides the most value to society?” Given a list of professions to choose from, respondants put marketers and advertisers down near the bottom of the pile along with actors and actresses and dancers, with only 13 percent saying those professions added value to society. Lawyers, politicians and bankers scored higher.

The only professionals that fared worse in the estimation of consumers were PR people. The Edelman Berland people must have love that one—their parent company is the largest PR firm in the world.

On another slide we learn that more than half of U.S. consumers (53 percent) believe that “most marketing is a bunch of B.S.”

Almost 70 percent of those surveyed said they use social media. Well more than half, 57 percent, said they have “liked” a brand at some time or other on Facebook.

On the other hand, most people would like to have a mechanism for saying a brand sucks. More than half, 53 percent, said they wish there was a “dislike” button on Facebook.

Don’t hold your breath on that one. Facebook will always be a happy place where consumers can interact with their favorite brands!

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