Study: While Consumers Still Trust Word-of-Mouth Most, Owned Advertising Is Gaining Ground

It’s no surprise that people are more likely to base purchasing decisions on the personal recommendations of individuals they know and trust than on commercial advertisements. In fact, according to a new study by Nielsen, 84 percent of consumers around the world trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family (a form of earned media) above all other sources of advertising.

While it’s unlikely the public will ever value branded messages more highly than the opinions of those closest to them, that doesn’t mean owned advertising isn’t effective. In fact, the same study shows that most forms of paid advertising are actually gaining ground when it comes to winning the trust of consumers.

The study found that 69 percent of global respondents trust owned advertising in the form of content and messaging on brand websites, making it the second most-trusted advertising source in 2013, up from a fourth-place ranking in 2007.

“Brand marketers should be especially encouraged to find owned advertising among the most-trusted marketing formats,” said Randall Beard, global head of advertiser solutions at Nielsen. “This emphasizes the notion that marketers maintain the ability to control the messages about their brands in a way that consumers consider credible. This perceived credibility is a key component in advertising effectiveness.”

Nielsen’s information also shows some good news for traditional advertising, such as TV and print ads, which continue  to be among the most trusted forms of paid advertising. Trust in television ads increased from 56 percent in 2007 to 62 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, 60 percent of global respondents said they trust ads in magazines, a four percent increase form 2007. Only newspaper advertising saw a decline, with 61 percent of consumers calling newspaper ads credible, down from 63 percent in 2007.

Mobile advertising, the newbie to the group, has made a major leap in consumer confidence. More than half (56%) of respondents said they trust consumer-consented email messages, an increase of seven percent since 2007. Meanwhile, almost half of respondents said they trust ads in search engine results, online video ads and ads on social networks, and 42 percent said they trust online banner ads, up from 26 percent in 2007.

Overall, this is a pretty sunny picture for advertising — consumers are, in general, a bit more trusting of paid advertising in its many forms than they were just six years ago. So, just because I may ask my mother-in-law how she feels about her recent vacuum purchase, doesn’t mean Dyson’s TV ad or well-placed sponsored tweet won’t affect my decision.

“A customer’s willingness to take action on an ad is a brand marketer’s currency,” said Beard. “While trust and action generally go hand in hand, Nielsen research shows that even ad formats that are developing can be effective in getting consumers to the point of sale.”


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