Is trust in advertising more important than ever?

Time ManagementAn article in this week’s Marketing Week suggests so. Keith Weed, president of the Advertising Association, believes that the coronavirus pandemic ‘provides an opportunity for the advertising industry to tackle the issue of trust and fulfil its responsibilities to the people, businesses and economy of the UK’.

We look at why might be, and what advertisers should be doing now.

The challenge of increasing public trust

Weed – formerly head of marketing and communications at Unilever – points out that there has been a trend towards declining levels of trust across many areas of our lives during the past decade.

This lack of trust is brought into sharp focus during the current pandemic, with an anxious population faced with a raft of new restrictions in their everyday life, coupled with an upsurge in fake news and false information.

However, advertising is one of the most effective and powerful ways to communicate messages clearly to a wide number of people. The re-emergence of the government’s public health adverts is a clear example of this.

As the article says, though, ‘the past few days will not have made up for years of declining trust’ in advertising.

How can brands build trust in advertising?

Some brands are already successfully demonstrating that they are on the side of the consumer – offering discounts or enhanced shopping experiences for keyworkers, for instance.

A survey quoted in the article found that the advertising industry sits at the bottom of a list of most trusted industries, with only 44% of respondents saying that they trusted advertising. There is clearly work to do.

The survey examined the factors that increased and lessened trust – with creativity (in terms of the ad’s ability to entertain or inform) top of the list of things that increase trust, and ‘bombardment’ the thing that most decreases it.

Work being done by a cross-industry Trust Working Group has identified five key actions advertisers must take to increase trust:

  1. Make your advertising welcome in people’s lives
  2. Place business effectiveness above efficiency
  3. Achieve full visibility of where your advertising goes
  4. Ensure every impact and exposure matters
  5. Deploy the necessary resources to track, measure and manage this activity

For Marketers in regulated firms, much of this will be familiar. The need to know where your advertising will appear, for instance, which regulated industries must be much more stringent about, in order to have appropriate Compliance oversight of where and for how long financial promotions appear.

Improving trust in advertising benefits advertisers and consumers

If trust in advertising can be increased, advertisers achieve better value via improved return on their investment.

In other areas, we have seen regulation improve the customer experience – for instance, in email marketing where GDPR has improved the quality of content shared by businesses.

Hopefully, this self-generated push to improve trust in advertising will have a similar result.

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