The Trust Issue

  • by , Featured Contributor, October 25, 2007
Earlier this month, AdWeek's Brian Morrissey reported on a global study from Nielsen that found consumers don't trust Internet advertising nearly as much as they trust traditional forms of advertising. The Nielsen study, based on an online survey of more than 26,000 consumers, asked respondents their perceptions of different forms of advertising. The results? Consumers rated Internet advertising at the bottom when it comes to trust as compared to offline media. Specifically, 63% said they trust newspaper ads, 56% trusted TV spots and magazine placements -- while search ads got a trust thumbs-up from just 34%, and banner ads were trusted by just 26% of the respondents.

Online ads have one-half of the trust of offline ads? Wow! All this time we thought that we were all working on the worlds' greatest and most-loved consumer medium. All this time we thought that consumers found online ads compelling -- and trustworthy. Apparently not. While we do great on addressability, measurability, interactivity and ubiquity, we've got a lot of work to do when it comes to consumer trust.



So, what should we do? Shoot the messenger? Question the methodology? Deny the numbers? No. We should accept reality and move on. Here are my thoughts:

  • Listen to our users. If we're not trusted, we need to understand why -- and fix it. Trust isn't taken, it is earned. We need to go out and earn it.

  • More known brands. The more our Web pages are filled with known consumer brands, the more their trust will rub off with our users. We need great consumer brands online, just as much as they need to be online.

  • Better creative. We still under-invest in creative messaging. We are not going to win consumers' trust in our messaging if we're not willing to invest in it.

  • Give it time. We're still new and trust takes time. Broadcast advertising has been around for decades and print advertising for centuries. We will get there, but it will take a while longer.

  • Exercise more control. Many online media companies run ads that many traditional media companies wouldn't. We're hungrier, but we can't get sloppy. We need to really look at our advertising acceptability standards and raise the bar. If we run bad ads from bad actors, we will never earn our users' trust.

    Think about the upside. Online advertising is growing at an extraordinary rate. The level of consumer response and engagement are extraordinary. If we can do as well as we are with only limited consumer trust, just imagine how big our industry will be once we achieve trust levels comparable to offline media. What do you think?

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