This election year, tailored political advertising is hot. Campaigns and other interest groups across the spectrum are combing through big data to identify and communicate the “right” message to the “right” voters. But, new research indicates that the majority of Americans are overwhelming opposed to mixing tailored advertising and politics. In fact, most said their support for a candidate would decreaseif they found out the candidate’s campaign engaged in it.
Take a look at these (rather convincing) findings from the first national survey on tailored political advertising, conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication:
* A whopping 86 percent of those polled said they do not want “political advertising tailored to your interests.” The number is far higher than the proportions rejecting other forms of tailored advertising. For example, 61 percent don’t want tailored ads for products and services; 56 percent say “no, thanks” to tailored news; 46 percent don’t want tailored discounts.
* Survey participants said their likelihood of voting for a candidate they support would decrease a lot (37 percent ) or at least somewhat (27 percent) if they learned a candidate’s campaign organization buys information about their online activities and their neighbor’s online activities—and then sends different political messages designed to appeal to them. (As the researchers point out, this activity is common during the 2012 election.)
*Even more said their likelihood of voting for a candidate they support would decrease a lot (50 percent) or at least somewhat (22 percent) if they learned a candidate’s campaign organization uses Facebook to send ads to the friends of a person who “likes” the candidate’s Facebook page. The ads contain someone’s profile photo and proclaim they support the candidate. (This is also happening during the 2012 election.)
* More than three-fourths (77 percent) of those polled agreed (including 35 percent who agreed strongly) that “If I knew a website I visit was sharing information about me with political advertisers, I would not return to the site.” (Many sites, independently or through third parties, do share such data.)
*85 percent agreed (including 47 percent who agreed strongly) that “If I found out that Facebook was sending me ads for political candidates based on my profile information that I had set to private, I would be angry.” (Once again, this is already happening.)
It’s important to note here that the researchers made a distinction between targeted and tailored advertising. They described targeting advertising as the analysis of data about a population to determine who should receive a persuasive message, how, when and for what reasons. They described tailored advertising as shaping a persuasive message for a particular individual based on conclusions the targeting process generated about that person’s interests and values.
This election year, the American public will receive unprecedented amounts of online political advertising –that means there will be unprecedented amounts of feedback about online political advertising, as well. Marketers need to pay attention to these results. Granted, political campaigns are different than typical product/service marketing campaigns, but even so, the next few months are going to teach us a quite a bit about consumer sentiment regarding digital marketing practices. Already, it’s clear that we need to remain ever-mindful of the delicate balance between improving the customer experience and intruding in someone’s personal digital ecosystem.
The full 28-page report, titled Americans Roundly Reject Political Advertising At A Time When Political Campaigns Are Embracing It, is available here, and it’s well worth a few minutes of your time.