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18 March 2019

How To Design a Location-Based Mobile Ad That Does Not Feel Creepy?

More and more retailers offer mobile apps that track the location of consumers to target them with localized mobile advertisements. However, consumers often experience this tracking as a violation of their privacy. A study in the Journal of Business Research suggests that message design can help to reduce feelings of intrusion.

Take aways

  • Presenting ads on relevant locations (“location-based advertising”) can boost sales, but it can also lead to feelings of intrusion.
  • Consumers feel less intruded by ‘open’ advertisements, which require some effort to interpret the persuasive message.
  • Retailers are advised to use open ads for location-based advertising, because consumers like these ads more and are more willing to buy the advertised product.
  • Retailers should present these open ads when consumers find themselves close to the advertised product, as this makes the positive effect much stronger.

Study information

  • Who?

    120 Dutch consumers (mean age: 40, age range: 18-65, 56% female)

  • Where?

    The Netherlands

  • How?

    Participants went grocery-shopping in a virtual supermarket. They entered a computer-assisted virtual environment (CAVE), a Virtual Reality technology. Participants received a shopping list on a mobile phone, and while they collected the products they received either an open advertisement about a brand of wine (where participants had to interpret a metaphor) or a closed advertisement (where the metaphor was verbally explained). Some of the participants received the ad when they were standing in front of the wine shelf, other participants received the ad when they were facing a shelf of unrelated products. After finishing the shopping task, participants answered questions about how intrusive the ad was and how much they liked it.

Facts and findings

  • Participants perceived the open advertisement as less intrusive than the closed advertisement. Consequently, participants who saw the open ad liked the ad more and added the advertised brand to their shopping basket more often.
  • The positive effect of open ads was a lot stronger for consumers who were standing close to a shelf with advertised products when the ad was presented, compared to consumers who were standing in front of a shelf with unrelated products.
  • The more participants worried about their privacy, the more they perceived the ad as intrusive.