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What Consumers Want From Personalized Advertising (Study)

By Shelly Kramer – Contributing Writer, Co-Chief Executive Officer of V3 BroadSuite.

Personalization is a powerful tool for marketers, one that can help to grab a consumer’s attention and form an ongoing relationship with them. For consumers, too, expectations of what personalization can do for them are high, particularly as they consume more and more content on the move via their mobile devices. But what do consumers really want from the personalized approach, and how best can marketers ensure that they leverage personalization to the max?

Those are just some of the questions that a partnership between IPG Media Lab and Yahoo set out to answer with their “Going Deeper” study. The study, which questioned more than 5,000 consumers, tested 81 variations of digital ads based on nine elements of personalization to gauge their expectations, reactions, and feelings about ads that supposedly had been tailored to them. Let’s take a look.

Consumers expect more personalization on mobile

The mobile revolution isn’t a new phenomenon, but it does seem to have reached a tipping point. Just consider these stats from Pew Research about U.S. smartphone use in 2015, which should be of no surprise to anyone:

  • Sixty four percent of adults now own some type of smartphone compared to just 35 percent in 2011. Ownership is especially high amongst the young and those with higher education and income levels.
  • One in ten Americans don’t have any other form of Internet access other than their smartphone.
  • A third of smartphone owners said that they use their device to follow breaking news “frequently,” and more than two-thirds said they do so “occasionally.”
  • Three-quarters of the younger respondents (18 – 29) said that they used their phone to watch video at least once over the study period. A massive 93 percent of the same group indicated that they use their phone to avoid boredom (I know I do), and sadly, almost half (47 percent) said they do so to avoid interaction with those around them.

Against that background, it’s little surprise that the IPG study found that the greatest demand for personalization is on mobile. When compared to tablet and PC, personalization expectations were much higher for mobile, especially when it came to finding speedy location-based information and answers.


Unfortunately for advertisers, respondents also suggested that there is some room for improvement before their expectations can be met.


Personalization shouldn’t be too personal

The study asked consumers for their views on the different types of personalization and how comfortable they were when data about themselves and their behavior was used. Not surprisingly, the comfort level was low as the information used to personalize the message became increasingly too personal. As the information used became more general and based on factors such as demographics, location, and past engagement with a site, consumers’ comfort level increased significantly. Again, not surprising – right?


Understanding the dynamics at play

The research suggested that there are several factors that can influence the success of personalized ads.

  • More than half of those taking part felt strongly that personalized content saves them time.
  • Consumers respond more to ads that are tailored to their online activity and their location.
  • Advertisers tend to benefit when consumers see ads in the content they love.

One of the major factors, and one that seems likely to increase the acceptability of a more personalized approach over time, is that of the age of the consumer. Millennials expect to see personalization and are more open-minded when it comes to the use of their personal data than the generations that have gone before them. Not shocking news there, either.


The study also revealed that consumers find personalization to be more acceptable for purchases they found to be more difficult and that caused them the most anxiety. The effect seems to be that the more meaningful a purchase is considered to be, the higher the desire for personalization—and that totally makes sense.


The study concludes that personalized ads based on the consumer’s social media usage, purchase history, search terms, and location are the most likely to result in increased favorability and purchase intent. Giving the consumer control is also listed as a positive factor, and I think there’s one more that should be added–content. The research indicates that consumers respond more when ads are in content that they enjoy. Good quality content is the foundation of everything and no amount of fancy personalization bells and whistles will ever change that. If you mail it in with your content, it won’t work.

Personalization can be a powerful tool for marketers and advertisers, helping them to stand out in a crowded digital marketplace. Consumers clearly have an appetite to see personalized ad messages, an appetite that is likely to increase in view of the more tolerant approach from millennials. Marketers need to ensure that they deliver the tailored personal approach that consumers expect for personalization to succeed.

You can find out more about this study at IPG Lab/Yahoo Going Deeper and if you’re interested in the report in its entirety, you can access that there:

*All graphics are from the Going Deeper Study

By Shelly Kramer – Contributing Writer, Co-Chief Executive Officer of V3 BroadSuite
Website:, Twitter: @ShellyKramer