- Google launched Ad Settings that allow users to better understand and control how ads are targeted to them, the company announced via its The Keyword blog. Users can select which topics they want to receive ads around and remove unwanted topics.
- Currently, ads are tailored based on users' activity while signed into Google accounts, information added to a Google account or information provided by advertisers, including whether a user has visited a certain site or signed up for a newsletter. Turning off an ad criteria means that ads targeted around that subject will not be served to users while they are using Google services or sites and partner apps while they are signed into their accounts. Ads can still be targeted based on general factors.
- Google also unveiled a feature called “Why this ad?" that appears next to ads and offers information about why a user is seeing that ad and lets them access Ad Settings more easily. The tool is available across platforms that show Google Ads, including YouTube, Gmail, Maps and Search, as well as websites and apps that partner with Google to show ads.
Giving users more control over how ads are targeted to them and more information about why they see certain ads could benefit marketers looking to establish trust with consumers. Transparency around how users' data is collected and shared is a hot topic following Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal and the implementation of the European Union's General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) in late May. In response to GDPR, Google has said it will support non-targeted ads for consumers who opt out of data collection for targeting. However, critics say Google and Facebook have an advantage under GDPR because they have the resources to get the consent needed to comply with the rule.
Consumers generally don't mind sharing personal information with brands, but are more likely to engage when marketers are transparent about how the information will be used to target ads, research by Maritz Motivation Solutions and the Harvard Business School found. When told ads were based on information that they shared with the brand, consumers were 40% more likely to click on items and spent 31% more time on a product page.
As consumers grow to expect more personalized and relevant messaging, Google's new Ad Settings feature will let them take some ownership of the process. Marketers have sometimes struggled to get personalization right, with efforts to deliver tailored messages seen as creepy. Plus, about 40% of consumers think that personalized messaging actually isn't that personal, according to a Periscope By McKinsey study.
Google's moves follow Facebook's announcement earlier this week that it will start requiring advertisers to tell users if data brokers provided the information leading to those users being targeted with ads. It was the social network's latest effort to quell concerns over data privacy following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where the data of millions of Facebook users were mishandled, and subsequent controversies around how the platform shares information with device makers, app developers and other businesses.