UK consumers "unaware" of targeted ads

30 October 2009

LONDON: Some 72% of web users in the UK are "unaware" of the use of targeted advertising on the internet, while 81% do not know they have the ability to opt out of such schemes, a study by the IAB, the trade industry body, and Olswang, the business law firm, has found.

Based on a poll of over 1,000 people carried out last month, the two organisations reported that 50% of respondents regarded the medium as being safe and secure, rising to a high of 65% among 16–24 year olds.

Nine out of every ten participants had shared personal data like their name, email and postal address online, with 73% doing so on retail websites, and 71% on banking portals, compared with just 28% on social networks.

Overall, 20% of contributors initially regarded the use of behavioural advertising as being unappealing, with their main concerns including worries about how their personal data would be stored and used.

However, when given more information about how targeted ads work and their privacy options, 74% of the panel said they were "comfortable" with the idea.

Nick Stringer, head of regulatory affairs at the IAB, said "as online becomes more about the internet user and ads become more targeted, it's never been so important to consider and respect consumers in order to keep digital marketing popular, and effective."

Earlier this year, the IAB launched a website,, which aims to educate netizens in the UK about targeted advertising, and their own options in this area.

The issue first came to prominence in the country when BT, the telecoms provider, began trialling software made by Phorm which delivered ads based on the browsing history of individual web users.

Phorm has since withdrawn from the British market, but companies such as Google have continued to advocate the benefits of this sort of strategy. 

Data sourced from IAB; additional content by Warc staff