Does behavioural targeting have a place online?

Behavioural targeting has long since been a hot topic of debate and with various networks starting to find their feet in the South African digital space, this debate is likely to continue.

Ad networks in the UK have long since laid claim to behavioural targeting as one potential solution for driving further interaction with creative and thus improving campaign performance. But how do the users feel about it? How ethical is it? How should brands approach this? And where does it leave the agency?

According to an online advertising report by Addvantage Media, conducted by YOUGOV, Behavioural Targeting is seen as less than above board, and even regarded as irrelevant by the majority of UK consumers – no one really wants people to know their online behaviour patterns, do they?

The report also found that 52% of consumers would be very likely to unsubscribe (if given the option) from adverts based on behavioural targeting. Even with a younger, more tech savvy audience, this attitude doesn’t change much as the following figures show: 53% of 18-24 year olds, 52% of 25-34 year olds, 50% of 35 to 44 year olds, 54% of 45 to 54 year olds.

According to the data, users’ negative perception of behavioural targeting raises the question; “Does it actually lead to relevant advertising being served?” 45% of consumers said that they had never witnessed a relevant ad based on their online behaviour while 31% of younger consumers claim to have experienced a relevant advert more often (51% of 18-24 year olds, 44% of 25-34 year olds) but that still leaves a large portion of the audience who have never noticed a relevant advert based on their online behaviour.

With the South African digital industry on the verge of some major changes in the next year or so and with the arrival of more networks to fresh, green South African pastures there is something to be said for how South African users will react to the knowledge that networks, brands and agencies could be monitoring their behaviour online.

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