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Advertising Trust Up, But Not in Mobile

Posted on September 17, 2013

While the state of advertising in 2013 looks largely positive -- consumer trust in advertising is up across the board compared with trust levels six years ago -- consumers still hesitate to put trust in mobile ads, even as the use of mobile devices continues to grow. Trust is an essential ingredient to a successful campaign, yet one that can be elusive. What does the current state of advertising mean, not just across the board but for companies engaged with web and mobile ads?

Channels that consumers trust

The form of advertising that consumers trust the most in 2013 is recommendations from people they know, which has 84 percent completely/somewhat trust, according to a Nielsen survey. Friend recommendations also held the top spot in 2007. Consumers hold 69, 68 and 67 percent trust in, respectively, brand websites, consumer reviews online and newspaper or magazine editorials. Traditional media ad channels have a high level of trust, including television ads, newspaper and magazine ads, radio ads, billboards and brand sponsorships. Advertising channels with a moderate trust rate, hovering just above or just under 50 percent, include television product placement, online video ads, ads served via search engine and ads on social networks.

Channels that consumers do not trust

While Nielsen found that most consumers have a high level of trust in most forms of advertising, a few advertising channels have trust rates at or below 45 percent. These include display ads on mobile phones (45 percent, not studied in 2007), online banner ads (42 percent, vs. 26 percent in 2007) and text message ads (37 percent vs. 18 percent in 2007). While trust has indeed grown since 2007 for these forms of advertising, it continues to remain very low compared with trust in other forms of advertising.

Trust can vary by content areas

While the numbers do flatter advertising, it's important to note that not all areas of advertising experience a high level of trust. 81 percent of consumers feel that beauty ads are exaggerated, and over 75 percent of those who feel that beauty ads have it right are men. 96 percent of people surveyed believed that at least half of weight loss ads are doctored, and 87 percent of those surveyed mistrusted cleaning ads. So these industries clearly have a lot more work to do to gain consumer confidence.

The stakes for mobile advertising

Mobile device ads may be the best way to reach consumers that primarily engage via their mobile device -- i.e. for consumers that do not have a primary computer and do not watch television. Certainly, they could be a timely way to redirect shoppers toward your store (and away from a competitor's) in real time. Yet trust issues hamper the potential. At best, approximately one-third of customers will respond positively to these ads and the rest will ignore them. At worst, two-thirds of your potential customers will develop a negative view of you or your brand because of mobile ads, whereas they had a neutral or positive view beforehand.

To gain more ground, mobile advertising must demonstrate that it can be trusted. One place to start is by adopting best practices from several other forms of advertising that consumers have a higher degree of confidence in already. As a starting point, review your mobile privacy policy. If you don't yet have one, this is your ground zero. Whether revising an existing policy or starting from scratch, strongly consider using a best practice privacy policy. This not only alleviates concerns of spying that may be culturally relevant with the NSA situation, it helps to instill confidence that you aren't going to abuse customer information. Tailor your policies so they employ clear language and give users choice. You'll also need to keep an ear out for regulations that may affect data collection and storage, privacy policies and online advertising and revise if needed.

While this can sound like a lot of hard work, it's necessary if you want to have an effective mobile campaign. Trust in your mobile campaign can lead to trust in your overall brand and messaging, which would certainly be worth your investment in the long run.

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