NEWS31 January 2019

Public perception of advertising at its lowest

Media News Trends UK

UK – The public’s favourability towards advertising is the lowest it’s ever been, according to research from advertising industry think tank Credos.

Empty ads on Underground escalator

Public favourability hit a low of 25% in December 2018, according to the research from the Advertising Association. In 1992, when the tracker began, the figure was at 48% but it has been in long-term decline.

The public feel ‘bombarded’ by advertising as a result of seeing too many adverts, and seeing the same ads repeatedly, the research found. People also regarded advertising as obtrusive – causing a delay or disruption to their user experience – or irrelevant.

Participants were also concerned by advertising from companies selling sensitive products such as payday loans targeted towards vulnerable groups.

Credos conducted qualitative interviews with 60 people around the UK, a 10-day advertising diary with 12 participants, and a national survey of 2,000 people.

After conducting a factor analysis to see how positive attitudes compared to the negative, Credos found that the positive “slightly outweighed” the negative, according to Credos director Karen Fraser.

Less than a third of survey respondents were actively unfavourable towards advertising, and the qual research found that advertising was viewed positively by some – either in terms of sharing valuable information, for entertainment or to promote progressive social values.

Keith Weed, chief marketing officer at Unilever and president of the Advertising Association, said: "We should look at those areas identified in the research as being of concern and do our utmost to address them – and be seen to do so. We live in an age where people are increasingly conscious of the need for business to act responsibly and be a force for good in society. Let’s work together as an industry to meet both the challenges our research presents and the opportunities it affords to rebuild advertising’s relationship with people."

Fraser said: "Our new study has identified the key factors impacting trust and favourability, specifically the actions the advertising industry can take to affect change. They include things that the best advertisers have always known, such as retaining respect and regard for those on the receiving end of your advertising, and a total commitment to honest and open communication with all parties involved in the production of advertising."

Speaking at the Advertising Association’s LEAD event in London yesterday, Weed said: "Without trust, advertising has no future. Advertising without trust is just noise."

Weed outlined five action points the industry should take to rebuild trust: 

  • Reducing the negative impact of ‘bombardment’, continuing the IAB’s gold standards work
  • Best practice to address excessive frequency and retargeting, i.e. people being served the same ad multiple times
  • Raising consumer awareness of the ASA
  • Raising awareness of the ICO’s work to regulate data
  • Gathering industry support for advertising as a force for good.

Responding to the findings during a panel at the event, Paul Bainsfair, director general of the IPA, said: "What we need to look at carefully is the way we are using data to target people. There’s been almost a headlong rush towards micro-targeting. We need to think about the ways in which we use to talk to people rather than criticise advertising as a whole."

Lindsey Clay, chief executive at Thinkbox, said: "I think we should listen to what the consumer says. Ordinary people are telling us it is bad, and we have a problem." Discussing the rise of online advertising, Clay added: "We’ve prided ourselves on self-regulation but it’s creaking at the seams – it’s a delicate ecosystem."