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Nassim covers the accounting and tax rounds for BRW, as well as general business news. She previously worked for The Age newspaper covering general news, state politics and economics.

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‘Creepy’ targeted ads spooking Australians worried about loss of privacy

Published 13 June 2013 11:31, Updated 20 June 2013 00:45

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‘Creepy’ targeted ads spooking Australians worried about loss of privacy

New research suggest 73 per cent of Australian find personalised, targeted advertising ‘creepy’. Photo: SMH

Australians are worried their privacy is being compromised by marketers collecting online information on their spending habits, new research shows.

A global study released by Adobe and conducted in partnership with research consultancy Edelman Berland, shows while Australians are sharing more information about themselves than ever before, they remain worried about privacy issues.

It also shows that most Australians prefer traditional advertising – television and print – to online advertising.

The findings come as United States internet companies including Google, Yahoo and Facebook move to address privacy concerns in the wake of reports of confidential documents leaked by a government contractor 29-year-old Edward Snowden last week. It revealed the American National Security Agency had tapped computers at Google and other major internet companies in search of information about foreigners living outside the US.

The revelations have heightened public concerns about the way governments and businesses use their private information. The Adobe Marketing Myth Busters research gives further insight into consumer impressions. It reveals Australians feel that they have lost a sense of privacy online.

The research analyses the influence and success of advertising among consumers and marketers. It is based on the responses of 250 senior marketers and 1000 consumers across the nation (similar studies were conducted in the UK, US and Japan).

Too much information

The research found that 84 per cent of Australians believe companies collect to much personal information about them, and 87 per cent believe there are too many technologies tracking and analysing their behaviour.

It found 82 per cent feel they have lost control of their privacy and that 73 per cent of respondents believe “it’s creepy when companies target advertisements to consumers based on their behaviour”.

Consumers also feel that businesses and organisations know far more about them, than they do about the organisation (89 per cent) and that companies are crossing the line when unknowingly collecting information and sharing information with third parties.

Adobe’s Australia and New Zealand managing director Paul Robson says consumers still want customised messages from advertisers, but that this needs to be done without them having to reveal sensitive information.

“If an individual isn’t comfortable [in sharing private information] it’s important for marketers to respect that,” he says. “The advertiser many need to work through more traditional methods.”

Robson says if advertisers want to directly market to consumers based on their behaviours, they need to first establish trust. “They have got to engage with customers and individuals about what they are comfortable and not comfortable with,” he says.

Almost half of respondents say they feel neither positively nor negatively about customised products, but when choosing a company that does the best job of personalising messages, Google comes out on top.

Many consumers are not familiar with the term “big data” and when asked to define it say that it is “the ability to look at every transaction a customer makes”.

Social media sales

The research found that marketers use social media nearly twenty per cent more than Australian consumers (68 per cent compared to 87 per cent).

Social media is most used for checking updates, although many consumers also use social media to help friends locate them.

Almost 55 per cent of consumers use social media and have “liked” on behalf of a brand of product, but nearly the same amount also wish there was a dislike button.

Consumers attribute “liking” as a way of communicating and recommending, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into purchases. However, 70 per cent of Australians surveyed cited recommendations from trusted sources as most effective in encouraging consideration of a product or brand.

“Industries from hospitality, education, tourism and transport must all now contend with peer-to-peer recommendations as the sharing of information immediately through social channels becomes the norm,” Robson says.

Australians prefer traditional marketing

The research found that Australians prefer to look at advertisements in print and on television, than online. It found 31 per cent prefer to watch it on TV and 26 per cent prefer to see it in magazines and newspapers.

It also found consumers pay more attention to speed limits, (72 per cent), their spouse or significant other (69 per cent), and the weather report (57 per cent) than they do to online advertsiements.

“Many Australians find online advertising annoying, distracting and invasive,” Robson says.

“The challenge for marketers is to use the data they gather more effectively. With the right data, you can provide a powerful bespoke experience for individuals, rather than a website designed for everyone that relates specifically to no-one. In doing so you can gather and analyse more finite data to get accurate return on investment.”

In terms of the types of advertisements used, more than three-quarters of Australian consumers prefer to watch “funny ads” and believe they are more effective than “sexy ads”. Nearly 70 per cent of consumers say a video is worth a thousand words.

Consumers generally feel advertising works better on women and will more likely impact purchasing decisions.

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