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New Research Shows UK Public's Advertising Experience Integral to Trust

Advertising Association

4 min read Partner content

Creative quality of advertising remains top trust driver, while ad bombardment is most damaging, according to Credos report

14 September, 2023, Edinburgh, UK: UK advertising’s thinktank, Credos, has revisited its ground-breaking Public Trust in Advertising research from 2018 and 2021 in a new study – ‘What drives the public’s trust in advertising’ – revealed at LEAD Scotland, hosted by the Advertising Association (AA) at the National Museum of Scotland today (14 September).

The study, led by Credos and conducted by research agency Craft, interrogated the drivers which most affect public trust, showing the most significant driver by far remains a positive one – engaging and enjoyable creativity in advertising (importance score of 31/100). Meanwhile, ad bombardment remains the biggest driver of distrust, and its importance has increased significantly for younger audiences since 2021 (importance score up from 19 to 32/100).

Three overarching themes have also emerged in the latest Credos report which underpin whether someone trusts advertising and are fundamental to understanding public sentiment towards ads:

  1. World view: attitudes to advertising nest within a much broader set of individual values and views, such as how people feel about living in a consumer society.
  2. Media socialisation:  the media ‘world’ in which a person was socialised is fundamental to shaping expectations of and attitudes towards advertising. Older people were socialised in a more static media landscape, younger people have grown up in a world supplemented by ever-changing web-based media.
  3. Definition: the public have a much broader definition of advertising. This includes everything from sponsorships to window displays to packaging to scams.

Konrad Callao, Founder, Craft, said: “This research brings into stark relief how attitudes to advertising are shaped by a person’s wider worldview on matters such as privacy, sustainability, consumption, to name but a few - understanding an individual’s wider attitudes and beliefs on these issues seems to be a critical part of understanding their attitudes to and trust in advertising. Likewise, the media landscape in which people are socialised is crucial in setting expectations of what is normal. Increasingly we are seeing a divide between what kinds of advertising the youngest and oldest adults are exposed to, and therefore what they enjoy, tolerate and are concerned by.”

Stephen Woodford, Chief Executive, Advertising Association, said: “Understanding the drivers of public trust in advertising underpins the industry’s work to sustain and grow this trust. It is the top priority for the AA’s membership and is at the core of our work.”

Further highlights in the Credos study include:

  • Advertising’s social contribution (as first examined in Credos’ Advertising Pays 8 report) was the second most significant driver of trust with an importance score of 10/100.
  • The regression analysis showed data privacy to be more important in driving distrust for 35-54 year-olds, versus other age groups (importance score for 18-34s of 5, 35-54s of 17, 55+ of 7).
  • The significance of misleading and invasive advertising techniques (including a growing experience of scams or fraudulent communications) as a driver of distrust has decreased since 2021 (importance score down from 13 to 8) but is still higher than 2018 levels (importance score of 5).
  • Those who are the least trusting of advertising believe there aren’t enough regulations. However, there is an opportunity to address this by increasing the public’s awareness of the ASA and its effective regulation of legitimate advertising, including online. The ASA conducted its biggest ever ad campaign last year, with research results confirming the impact awareness of the regulator has on driving positive levels of trust. The ASA is launching another awareness campaign this month until the end of 2023.

Woodford continued: “The ASA advertising campaign results show that relevant action can make a difference, with those aware of the ASA’s comprehensive regulation of advertising content via this campaign having a 50% higher level of trust than those unaware of it. Working with AA members, we are now developing the ‘Trust Action Plan’, first launched in 2019, continuing to focus on what makes a real difference to the public’s advertising experience, with our updated plan launching early 2024.”

The study is the only one of its kind within the global advertising industry, alongside Credos’ quarterly Trust tracker. The results help inform the UK advertising industry’s ‘Trust Action Plan’ which is led by the AA’s Trust Working Group, chaired by the IPA and ISBA Director Generals, Paul Bainsfair and Phil Smith.

When reviewing the results since the first study in 2018, the 2023 findings reveal a ‘back to the future’ picture with the scores matching 2018 more closely than 2021 which was impacted by behavioural changes during the pandemic.

For media owners who would like to support the ASA campaign or any members of the advertising industry who would like to input into the AA’s action plan, please contact the AA’s Trust Project Director, Zoe Jones, at zoe.jones@adassoc.org.uk to find out more. You can also read more about the AA’s work on Trust here.

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