Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Consumer savviness is forcing advertisers to reconsider targeting strategy

Consumers are becoming increasingly educated on how digital advertising works and, as a result, advertisers are having to think long and hard about how they’re targeting people online, according to an IAB UK study.

The Real Living 2021 study found that digital media usage has surged since 2015, with advertisers now having an 18-hour window to engage with audiences every day. Consumers tend to use an average of five digital devices a day, but the smartphone is by far the most popular, as 80% of people use theirs daily and 41% finding their phones have changed the way they consume entertainment at home.

As these digital habits have become more ingrained in people’s lives, they’ve also been able to develop a deeper understanding of how advertising works, with 61% understanding the role that advertising plays in funding online content. But, because of this, consumers are increasingly using this knowledge to demand more control over the ads they see.

“We brought Real Living back for 2021 to understand how people are now using digital devices today and what advertisers need to be considering in a world where digital has become ubiquitous,” said Jon Mew, IAB UK CEO.

“By digging beneath the surface of people’s day-to-day online experiences, the results show how complex and multifaceted our digital days have become. At the same time, consumers have become increasingly aware of the way that their data can be used and how targeting works, which has naturally led to a desire for greater control.”

Importantly, along with this increased control, consumers place the most value in advertising that is relevant and enhances their online experience. However, advertisers have to be careful when going down the relevance path, and ensure they’re not over-personalising. This is evidenced by the 47% of regular CTV watchers who feel ‘unnerved’ by ads being too tailored to them on streaming services.

“For advertisers, this study should underline the importance of taking a nuanced, refined and contextual-led approach to digital targeting – taking into account all of the ways that people are engaging with different devices throughout the day – rather than employing a blanket strategy across channels or falling into the trap of over-targeting,” Mew concluded.


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