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7 out of 10 UK consumers are opting out of people-based targeting 


Consumer Behaviour Contextual Targeting User Experience
Consumer Behaviour Contextual Targeting User Experience User Identity

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Vanessa O’Connell, Head of Marketing Communications at Nano Interactive, shares the results of a recent survey to understand how consumer feel about online targeting

Since Safari sunsetted cookies in 2020, ad tech has effectively carried on as normal. Even if ABC1 Apple users were no longer targetable or measurable, that is still only 30% of the market, and buyers could ‘over-index’ elsewhere.  

But we now have confirmation that Google is sticking to its 2024 deadline for retiring cookies on Chrome. 

Up to now, solutions to cookie deprecation have mostly focused on maintaining the status quo in various forms. But what if the challenge goes beyond the cookie itself - what about consumers opting out of people-based targeting entirely? 

Whether it’s clearing caches, browsing incognito, using VPNs or rejecting opt-in prompts – the list of options is surprisingly long.  

To shine a light on this, Nano surveyed a representative sample of 2,000 UK consumers, to understand the steps they’re taking to opt out of tracking online, as well as how their views on the topic have altered over the past few years. 

40% of respondents use VPN 

The headline finding from our survey was that around seven out of 10 (70%) of respondents had taken steps to limit tracking – all in the past week. That includes all the measures listed above. 

A smaller percentage take even more drastic actions, with almost a fifth (18%) opting out of cookies daily. Meanwhile, 40% make use of a VPN, which, it should be noted, are usually paid for. The overall picture is of a market where addressability is even more fragmented than we generally assume.  

In fact, the number of UK consumers taking their own steps to stop tracking may be more than the percentage of UK online users who use Instagram monthly (65%, according to eMarketer). It also represents a greater fraction of the UK audience than the total with access to any subscription VOD services - all of Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ etc combined (68%, according to Ofcom). 

Gen Z more likely to limit tracking 

A second finding is that the proportion of consumers acting to limit personal targeting is still increasing. Almost a third (29%) of people spend more time browsing privately compared to a year ago. And 60% have become more aware of how their personal information might be used by advertisers in the past three years.  

Younger people are more likely to limit tracking than the general population, suggesting the trend is only set to grow in future. 

Personal data for content? 

Alongside a greater understanding of privacy, people-based targeting and tracking, comes a broader awareness. That is, of the assumed value exchange these tactics are based upon - – that free content is provided in return for viewing ads – and by extension, for sharing your personal data: 

  • When asked if their personal data was a fair exchange for a free service, equal numbers of respondents agreed as disagreed (30%). 

  • However, the vast majority believe change is needed – with 63% saying advertisers should find a better way to make ads relevant that does not rely on collecting personal information. 

  • An awareness of tracking (42%) was cited above even data breaches (31%) or being targeted by online scammers (31%) as the reason for becoming more privacy conscious in the past three years. 

Silver lining for advertisers   

There is however a huge opportunity for advertisers who are mindful of this changing consumer mindset. More than half (52%) of consumers said they would be more likely to choose a brand if it could prove it never collected or used any personal information for advertising.  

In previous research, Nano observed a shift among buyer tactics, from audience targeting to contextual, as signal loss begins to bite. And, with this latest report, this trend is cast in an even wider context. A tipping point has arguably been reached – with most users no longer addressable. In fact, the number is greater than the proportion of UK online consumers using Instagram. 

Meanwhile, tactics like contextual targeting that forgo all forms of profiling and personal data are not only unaffected by cookie loss but could also increase brand preference.    

And with confirmation now that Chrome cookies will disappear next year, this is a major inflection point for media in general. 

It is apparent, at least from the above responses, that consumers are demanding a new ad targeting model where the person, and their personal data, is no longer the product. 

Download Nano Interactive’s full report: ‘Tipping Point for Addressable Audiences – the Numbers, People & Methods Behind Opting Out of People-Based Targeting’ here 

By Vanessa O’Connell, Head of Marketing Communications

Nano Interactive

Nano Interactive are leaders in identity-free targeting. Our award-winning, AI driven technology finds highly targeted online audiences and optimises towards desired campaign outcomes using machine learning. Operating across EMEA & USA we deliver standard display, rich media, CTV, audio and video all without the use of cookies or any personal identifiers ensuring campaigns are future proof for the post-cookie world.

Posted on: Wednesday 24 May 2023