The Cost of Creepiness: How Online Behavioral Advertising Affects Consumer Purchase Intention

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



This study tested behavioral advertising techniques in an experiment, using reactance theory as a framework, to discover whether the effects of tailoring are consistent for newer, more invasive, practices. The results revealed that while behaviorally targeted online ads do have a positive direct effect on purchase intention, exposure to behavioral tailoring also sets off a negative indirect effect on purchase intention that attenuates the positive direct effect. This reduction of purchase intention can be attributed to the creepiness factor –the sense that marketers are tracking an individual’s personal information or online activities. Exposure to behaviorally tailored ads led to increased perceived creepiness, which led to increased threat, increased reactance, negative attitudes toward the ad, and ultimately negative purchase intention toward the featured product. The overall effect on purchase intention was reduced by five percent, indicating that the creepy aspects of behavioral tailoring have a real cost for marketers


Lisa Farman (Barnard)

Publication Name

Annual International Communication (ICA) Conference


San Juan, Puerto Rico

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