Report: Intrusive and Unhelpful - Targeted Advertising in Australia

Decorative image
  • Targeted advertising—known elsewhere as behavioural advertising, personalised advertising, or surveillance advertising—is in the crosshairs of Australian lawmakers. Draft legislation is expected from the Australian Government to substantially update the Privacy Act for modern and digital life. Working with YouGov, we polled 1,063 Australians to ask their opinions about targeted advertising and what they’d like to see changed under a revised Privacy Act.   

  • Australians find targeted ads intrusive, not helpful. Adtech companies often describe targeted advertising as helpfulto consumers. However, only 20 percent of people find targeted advertising very or somewhat helpful, while 73 percent find them very or somewhat intrusive. These intrusions are pervasive: 73 percent of respondents also said they often receive targeted ads for things they found themselves “just thinking about”

  • There is widespread support for choice around targeted advertising. 93 percent support the proposals that require digital platforms to provide people with the choice to opt-out of targeted advertising if they wish. Further, 82 percent say they would take up the opportunity to opt-out of targeted ads if the choice were available. 

  • People want less data collected and used for advertising. 90 percent would prefer less information about them was collected for advertising purposes. 87 percent would prefer ads not target them based on sensitive personal information, about, for example, their political views, sexuality, or health. 84 percent would prefer ads not target them based on their online browsing history. 

  • Targeted advertising does not inform consumer choices.  Only 27 percent said that they read or watch the ads served to them by targeted advertising, suggesting it is of little relevance or interest to consumers. 71 percent said they like brands less when they are targeted by them.

  • There is broad public support for other proposals advanced in the Privacy Act Review . ​​​​​​92 percent agree that companies should not be able to trade in children’s data. 88 percent agree that companies should not be able to target advertising to children. 94 percent agree that digital platforms should have to provide their policies in clear language.