Personalized online ads for seniors can help keep the advertising age out of the eyes of their parents and guardians, according to a study released Tuesday.
Advertisers could use the technology to target ads to individuals in the home or in a remote location.
The technology, called personalized online advertising (MOAA), also could be used for other marketing purposes.
The study, released by the Center for the Study of Ageing and Health at Johns Hopkins University, surveyed 1,000 adults, ages 50 to 80, from across the country to learn more about the technologies.
The study found that while most adults said they use online advertising to buy groceries, clothing, electronics, electronics accessories, cosmetics and household items, they didn’t think it was acceptable for advertisers to target seniors with personalized ads, including ads for groceries and clothing.
“It is our understanding that many people would prefer to buy items at a higher price than what they are paying for, and it is important to keep the cost of things lower,” said study author Dr. Anand Swaminathan, a professor of geriatrics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“But, if you can use the advertising technology, it could help your parents and others, especially those in nursing homes, or in remote locations where the cost is high, lower their expectations and make their lives easier,” he said.
The survey also found that more than one-third of the respondents said they would be concerned if a loved one was able to view ads that appeared to target them to seniors, even if the ads were in fact targeted to someone in their home.
The use of personalized ads could help seniors maintain their privacy, said Dr. Andrew Segal, director of geriatric services at Johns Columbia University’s Langone Medical Center.
It’s possible that seniors could be targeted based on a person’s medical condition, age, gender, ethnicity or even physical appearance, he said in a statement.
“It’s possible advertisers could target people based on their health conditions or other factors, but it’s not clear that they would necessarily do that in a way that could affect seniors’ privacy or health,” Segal said.
“This may help prevent the kind of targeting that is happening in the real world, which is what we want seniors to have in the privacy of their own homes.”
According to the study, online ads targeting seniors may have less impact on sales and could also be less effective in promoting specific products and services.
“If they can show a generic advertisement for a product, it’s very hard for people to decide if it’s a good advertisement for that product,” Swaminath said.
“There’s no question that these ads will have a positive impact on the seniors’ shopping behavior, but the way in which they are used is likely to be less than those used in the physical retail environment,” he added.
The Center for Research on Aging and Health’s study is the first to analyze the effectiveness of personalized online ads on seniors, according, and found that they had an impact on their shopping behavior and purchasing behavior.
The study’s findings will be presented to the American Academy of Pediatrics and will be published in a later issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
“The ability to control ads and preferences for personalized ads for the elderly will help seniors live a healthier and more fulfilling life, helping them make informed choices about their health and well-being,” Dr. Jennifer A. DeLuca, an assistant professor of medicine and director of the Center, said in the release.
“In particular, personalized ads will help make seniors’ health and wellbeing better as they shop for a variety of goods, as well as enhance their ability to shop for services and products they need.
These technologies could also have a profound impact on how they interact with others and in how they live their lives.”
The Center also is conducting a pilot study that will evaluate how personalized ads can be used in different ways in different situations.
The research, which will be conducted in Boston, is funded by the National Institute of Health.