Advertising in customized online environments

Have you ever seen an online banner advertisement that suddenly attracted your attention? I’m pretty certain all of you did. Maybe you’ve even encountered it while scrolling through this blog. The header of this post may have unwillingly drawn your attention. You could have felt intruded and annoyed, since this obviously wasn’t what you were looking for. But will this feeling remain unchanged, when you know all articles on this Customer Value Creation blog are personalized and tailored to your preferences?

The adoption of new technologies in the light of the creation of customized online environments has opened up new possibilities for companies to expose their target group to personalized and tailored advertising content in highly relevant Web 2.0 contexts. The main focus of the article of Bright and Daugherty (2012) is to investigate the effect of customization, desire for control and type of advertising on a consumer’s attitude towards the advertisement and the intention to interact with it, as shown in the figure below.


Desire for control is defined by Burger (1985) as ‘a stable personality trait reflecting the extent to which individuals generally are motivated to control the events in their lives’. In this context: do consumers want to have the ability to customize the content they are exposed to online or do they concur with a machine customizing content for the sake of convenience?

Bright and Daugherty (2012) tested a set of hypotheses in a simulated online news environment. They found that, in general, people tend to have a more positive attitude towards keyword advertisements than banner ads. A possible explanation for this result could be that keyword ads are perceived as less intrusive and therefore less annoying. The results also show that customers with a low desire for control in a non-customized environment have the most positive attitude towards the advertisement, whereas high-control customers in non-customized environments have the most negative stance towards the ad.

When considering the actual behavioural interaction with the advertisement (e.g. click-through rate), the authors reveal that the highest intention for behavioural interaction with the ad is found for banner advertisements in non-customized online environments. However, in customized environments the use of keyword ads leads to the highest interaction with the advertisement. The results also show that, in general, people with a lower desire for control have a greater behavioural intention to interact with the ad. This intention was even higher for banners than for keywords. By this finding, the authors conclude that advertising may be perceived as a loss of control over the displayed online content, which is unsatisfactory for people with a high desire for control.

While creating this blog post, I became curious to see the content I would be exposed to in an online news environment. Hence, I went to, according to Wikipedia the most visited news website in the Netherlands. After clicking on a sports article, I was shown two advertisements (see below, marked in red), one from Eneco (producer and supplier of gas, electricity and heat) and one from Infiniti (car brand). In this ‘experiment’ I wasn’t in a customized online environment and I was exposed to banner advertisements. In contradiction to the results of the article, I wouldn’t consider myself as having a relative positive attitude to the advertisements, neither having a behavioural intention to engage with the advertisement. This is mainly caused by the fact that both advertisements highly misalign with my interests, spending pattern and previous browsing behaviour.


In conclusion, I believe the most gains can still be made in this particular area. Facebook already does a good job in tailoring advertisements to interests, preferences and previous browsing behaviour. Subsequently, I suppose it shouldn’t be impossible for news websites such as to implement something similar. In my opinion, improving the ability to provide users with highly accurate personalized advertisements has the greatest potential to genuinely create a positive attitude towards online advertisements, as well as boosting click-through rates.

Robert Boer (356365)


  • Bright, L.F. & Daugherty, T. (2012) ‘Does customization impact advertising effectiveness? An exploratory study of consumer perceptions of advertising in customized online environments’, Journal of Marketing Communications, 18:1, 19-37
  • Burger, J.M (1985) ‘Desirability of control and achievement-related behaviors’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48: 1520–33

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