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You become what targeted online ads say you are

Washington : A new study has revealed that online advertisements targeted specifically at you because of your behavior can actually change how you view yourself.

In a series of experiments, the Ohio State University researchers found that young Internet users tended to embrace the identity labels, such as “environmentally conscious” or “sophisticated,” implied by the online ads they received. The key was that they needed to know that the ads were targeted to them because of their browsing history.

For example, in one experiment, people felt more environmentally conscious after they received a behaviorally targeted ad for a “green” product.

The power of a behaviorally targeted ad for a green product isn’t just that it persuades you to buy the advertised product. It actually makes you feel more environmentally conscious and can change your behavior, said co-author Rebecca Walker Reczek, adding “In a sense, you become more like what the ads say you are.”

That’s what the researchers found in one experiment involving 188 college students. The students spent 10 minutes on the Internet, much of it browsing on websites they chose. Afterward, the students were presented an online ad for a fictitious restaurant called Eatery 21, which advertised “Refreshingly Sophisticated American Classics.”

“The reason this works is because it is changing your self-perceptions first. If an ad makes you feel sophisticated or environmentally conscious, you are more likely to engage in all kinds of behaviors related to that trait – not just buy the advertised product,” Reczek said.

The study’s findings have broader implications beyond advertising, co-author Robert W. Smith said, adding “We like to think we are quite certain of who we are, but this study suggests that’s not quite the case. We are actually open to suggestions that can change, for example, how ‘outdoorsy’ or ‘sophisticated’ we feel we are. Our views of ourselves can be nudged one way or the other by something as simple as an online ad.”

The study appears in Journal of Consumer Research. (ANI)