UK regulator to research behavioral targeting

Wed 21 October 2009 11:10, Bas van den Beld

UK regulator to research behavioral targeting

Is behavioral targeting really the holy grail? Some people believe it is. With behavioral targeting everybody seems to be getting just what they want: advertisers get targeted audiences, while the consumers only get ads served they really are interested in. Everybody wins. Or maybe not?

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT), the UK regulator, this week announced it will be doing two market studies "which are aimed at clarifying and updating the understanding of consumer harm that arises from potentially misleading advertising and pricing." One of the two studies focusses on behavioral targeting, the other one on online pricing practices.

The research is supposed to bring more understanding towards behavioral targeting and clear up misunderstandings about the technique.

According to E-marketer more and more marketers plan on using behavioral targeting in 2009. However consumers seem to be ambivalent in whether or not they want to be 'behavioral targeted'. Consumers like the idea of getting ads served they are interested in, but they are afraid of what happens to their data. They are not sure the data is kept safe.

In the US web users even 'reject behavioral targeting. Two thirds of Americans said they didn't want to be tracked online, according to an independent study.

The question however is also how you ask a consumer what he wants. Most probably you will get different answers on two questions which basically is the same: "Do you want to get ads you only like to see based on your online behavior?" will probably get different kind of answers than "Will you allow a website to track your behavior and serve you ads based on that behavior?"

The studies by the OFT will be published early next year.

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