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Nielsen: why we don’t trust the media (and some ads)

Most forms of advertising and communication – such as TV ads, company websites, and promotional emails – have all seen a decline in trust among UK consumers over the last two years, according to Nielsen’s latest biennial Global Survey of Trust in Advertising, which polled 30,000 online respondents in 60 countries.

In the UK, the format hit by the biggest decline in trust was editorial content (down eight points to 54 per cent) followed by emails that consumers sign up for (down seven per cent to 56 per cent) and newspaper and radio ads (both down six per cent).

Of the 19 ad formats covered in the report, only the three least trusted – mobile ads, text ads on mobiles and ads on social networks – have increased in trust over the last two years. Thirteen experienced a decline, while three were unchanged.
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Neilsen EVP marketing effectiveness for Europe Terrie Brennan says: “There isn’t one simple rule for maximizing advertising effectiveness in a saturated market like the UK, but understanding how consumers feel about the ads they’re served on various media platforms is a good starting point.

“While advertisers have started to follow consumers online, about a third of online advertising campaigns don’t work – they don’t generate awareness or drive any lift in purchase intent. More than ever, consumers are in control of how they consume content and interact with brands, so understanding ad resonance across screens is now the only way to successfully drive memorability and brand lift.”

Personal recommendation (trusted to some degree by 81 per cent of UK respondents) remains the most trusted form of advertising or communication, with the credibility gap widening between it and other formats. It now stands alone as the only format trusted by more than 60 per cent of UK respondents – an accolade shared by some five formats just two years ago.

‘Consumer opinions online’ (58 per cent) is now the second most trusted format (up from fourth two years ago) and is followed by ‘emails signed up for’ and TV ads (both 56 per cent).

Online video ads and online banner ads have a lower trust rating than traditional ad formats, but their credibility has held up over the last two years, while trust in TV ads has fallen.
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Brennan says: “Brands have generally increased their digital ad spend as they’ve become more comfortable with digital advertising and measurement, but TV formats still deliver the highest unduplicated reach (ie, the ad reaches each audience member only once) of 85-90 per cent. Digital ads can offer considerable benefits – such as precision-focused campaigns, in-flight adjustments and more creative options – but moving from TV to an all-display digital plan is a bold move for any marketer. A mix of both offline and online channels usually offers the best ROI.”

Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising survey reveals that Britons are generally less trusting of all types of advertising compared to the global average, but generally more trusting than Europeans as a whole.

Personal recommendation is the format most likely to lead to some form of action being taken by consumers (cited by 71 per cent of respondents), followed by opted-in emails (62 per cent) and TV ads (53 per cent).

Generally, people are more likely to trust an ad format than take action as a result of seeing it. However, three ad formats buck this trend. Opted-in emails are more likely to engender action than trust (62 per cent take action vs. 56 per cent trust), as are ads in search engine results (43 per cent vs 38 per cent) and mobile text ads (28 per cent vs. 27 per cent).

Traditional TV ads actually come out of the survey pretty well. It’s always advertising wot gets the blame in these things but, actually, it’s mostly the client’s doing. When you have huge companies like Volkswagen fiddling emissions test results for years it’s a bit much to blame the ads. Corporate dishonesty starts at the top.

As for the declining belief in editorial content that’s hardly surprising. We all now know about industrial scale phone hacking by some newspapers and blatant editorialising rather than reporting by most. When a so-called ‘proper’ newspaper like the Telegraph sets out to bugger up the Labour leadership election by inviting its non-Labour readers to sign up as party members then you really are drinking in the last chance saloon.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

One comment

  1. This research is interesting but, as always, there are two sides to every story. Earlier in the year Newsworks’ ‘The company you keep’ study found that news brands provide a trusted and engaged context for advertisers (across platforms), resulting in people feeling more positive towards the brands they see advertising with their chosen titles and being more likely to consider acting on them. Read more here – http://www.newsworks.org.uk/Topics-themes/75357

    Stephen Allen, CEO of MediaCom Worldwide, sums it up brilliantly: “Local and national newspaper content is highly trusted and, by association, that trust is imparted upon the advertisers who use the medium. Trusted journalism provides a highly engaged environment that will always be desirable for advertisers.”

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