UVA Darden Professor Takes on Targeted Ads in Harvard Business Review

10 January 2018

By Dave Hendrick

Owing in part to a trove of digital data, online ads have taken consumer targeting to new heights, allowing marketers to serve up finely tailored messages to individual users. The growing awareness around how consumer data dictates what ads a user sees has sparked concern and calls for additional privacy safeguards or new regulations from some corners.

In an article in the January–February issue of Harvard Business Review titled “Ads Don’t Overstep,” University of Virginia Darden School of Business Professor Tami Kim, Harvard Business School Professor Leslie John and IESE Business School Professor Kate Barasz take stock of the rapidly evolving landscape and offer guidelines for digital marketers and advice for both businesses and consumers.

For the consumer who prefers relevant ads over irrelevant ones (an ad-free experience is not realistic in today’s ad-supported web landscape), it’s important that marketers get the balance right. Digital marketers need to understand when the use of consumer data to personalize ads will be met with acceptance or annoyance so that they can honor consumers’ expectations about how their information should be used. The good news is that social scientists already know a lot about what triggers privacy concerns off-line, and new research that we and others have performed demonstrates that these norms can inform marketers’ actions in the digital sphere. Through a series of experiments, we have begun to understand what causes consumers to object to targeting and how marketers can use personalization while respecting people’s privacy.

Kim joined the Darden faculty ahead of the 2017–18 academic year. Her research focuses on transparency and consumer empowerment relationships in the digital age, among other topics.

Read the full article online or in the January–February print edition of Harvard Business Review.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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