"Prove It!" Says The American Consumer of Ad Claims

According to a recent YouGov Omnibus survey, 50% of Americans who are aware of advertising don’t trust what they see, read or hear in advertisements.  44% think that advertisements are dishonest.   58% of all Americans thinks that there should be stronger requirements for proving claims in advertising

Trust in advertising is very much dependent on education, says the report. 65% of post-graduates think advertising cannot be trusted compared to 44% of those with a high school education.  58% of 35-54 year olds are more likely to trust advertising, as are 48% of 18-34 year olds and 48% of 55+ who think advertising can be trusted.

Rating of Advertisements (Seen, Read and Heard)


% of Respondents


Very Dishonest

Fairly Dishonest

Fairly Honest

Very Honest











Source: YouGov, March 2014

Advertising from the diet product, financial services, pharmaceutical and auto categories are the least trusted, while restaurants, clothing stores and consumer electronics categories are the most trusted.  

Advertising campaigns for diet products are considered least trustworthy by one third of Americans, followed by financial services products, which are distrusted by just over one quarter of Americans. Men are particularly suspicious of financial services ads with 31% of men compared to 22% of women dubious of claims made. 

Despite, or maybe because of, the mile-a-minute pharmaceutical disclaimers, prescription medication didn’t fare well, says the report, and their ads are distrusted by 23%. Although 20% believe that auto ads are not to be trusted, 16% say they buy the cars despite not trusting the ad.

Degree of Distrust in Ads by Brand Category (% of Respondents)


% Saying Least Trustworthy

Diet products


Financial/Insurance services/products


Pharmaceutical products/prescription medications




Cosmetic and beauty products


Fast food restaurants


Health foods


Travel and leisure services


Gadgets and tools


Environmentally friendly products


Food products (other than health foods)


Consumer electronics


Casual dining restaurants (other than fast foods)


Household appliances


Clothing stores


None of these are the least trustworthy


Source: YouGov, March 2014


The study finds that a quarter of Americans are inclined to believe that the advertising claims for casual dining restaurants realistically reflect the features and capabilities of the restaurants.  Fast food advertising is less well trusted, with only 16% believing their ads accurately represent the restaurant chains, but still higher than many other categories.

Women (23%) are more likely than men (16%) to believe that clothing store advertising offers an accurate description of the features of the stores, whereas men (17%) are more inclined than women (12%) to feel consumer electronics advertising delivers a fair representation of product features, says the report.

Many of the common advertising tactics like competitive advertising, scientific endorsements and awards claims seem to produce consumer skepticism rather than trust.  Although 16% think they are more likely to believe an advertising claim that includes the testimonial of a scientist or expert, that expert makes 29% less likely to believe an ad.  Ads making comparisons with direct competitors are more likely to be believed by 15% but less likely to be believed by 26%.

Believability Of Comparisons, Awards And Testimonials


% of Respondents

Ad Position

More Likely to Believe

Less Likely to Believe

Compare brand with a named competitor



Mention awards won by product or service



Includes testimonials from experts or scientists



Source: YouGov, March 2014

Americans are unsure which bodies monitor truth in advertising in the U.S., points out the report. 46% think it is the realm of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 17% think that it is managed by class action lawsuits and individual claims, and 14% think it is the realm of the self-regulating body of American advertisers the ASRC.  58% think that that there should be stronger requirements for proving claims in advertising.

 N.B.Total sample size was 1085 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between the 28th and 31st of March 2014, and carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (aged 18+).

For more information and full tables, please visit here.


Recommend (15) Print RSS
All content published by MediaPost is determined by our editors 100% in the interest of our readers ... independent of advertising, sponsorships or other considerations.