Advertising’s think tank, Credos, has published research revealing which issues most affect public perceptions of advertising as its latest tracking data shows public favourability towards advertising hit a low of 25% in December last year. Credos conclusions show that while people appreciate its benefits, there are a range issues negatively impacting their perceptions of advertising. These include bombardment and intrusiveness, as well as concerns around sensitive sectors and vulnerable groups.
The Credos study, led by the think tank Director, Karen Fraser, explored public perceptions of advertising by employing a mix of methods, including a ten-day advertising diary, filmed ethnography and a survey of a nationally representative sample of 2,000 people. The research into public favourability and trust towards advertising shows opinions on the industry fall into three broad categories:
The findings show that advertising is valued as a source of information on new products and services, as well as being a form of entertainment. Some respondents also saw it can be a force for social good, providing important public health information and representing progressive social values. Less than a third of people in the study were actively unfavourable towards advertising.
Trust and favourability towards advertising were negatively impacted by issues such as ‘bombardment’. Many respondents described feeling ‘bombarded’ by advertising, an opinion which stems from four key issues:
• Volume – the amount of advertising people witness
• Repetition – too frequent exposure to the same creative
• Obtrusiveness – ads which are felt to unfairly delay or disrupt the user experience
• Irrelevance – extending beyond the product being advertised to the execution of the ad and how it fits in with the surrounding environment
Aspects of the creative execution of individual campaigns also bothered participants, with many citing irritating jingles and poor humour.
The third broad category contains issues which concern people more deeply. These included a feeling of intrusiveness – when advertising is present in what are considered private places, such as letterboxes or email inboxes, or when individually targeted advertising appears to be based on personal data.
Another area of concern is around what are considered ‘suspicious techniques’. This is where adverts can cause suspicion and are felt to be manipulative. Examples cited include claims that are felt to be misleading or too good to be true, or when terms & conditions are judged to hide important information. Further areas highlighted include when it is unclear to the viewer whether something is an advertisement, or when creative work portrays unrealistic body image ideals.
There were also concerns around sensitive sectors and vulnerable groups. Most people have at least one sector which they feel merits significant restrictions on how much it can be advertised. Concern about advertising of these products and services was often felt in relation to vulnerable groups, such as the financially insecure, those with addictions, children, and the elderly.
Previous Credos tracking studies, commissioned by the Advertising Association, show public favourability towards advertising has been in long term decline. Concern at this decline led to the creation of a Trust Working Group (TWG) at the Advertising Association – alongside members from across the UK’s biggest advertisers, agencies, media owners, trade associations and tech platforms – under the direction of ISBA Director General, Phil Smith and IPA Director General, Paul Bainsfair. The first action of the TWG was to commission the biggest study of public trust and favourability in advertising by Credos.
Keith Weed, President, Advertising Association, commented: “Trust is a crucial component of advertising. A brand without trust is simply a product; you cannot have one without the other. And there is much that we can do to do to rebuild trust among the public towards advertising.
“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.”
Karen Fraser, director, Credos, 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”.
Paul Bainsfair, director general, IPA, said: “This research tells us that for most consumers, advertising is seen as a good thing with downsides. That said we are concerned that trust and favourability towards advertising is on the wane. This study gives us the chance to look at how we can change the perception of advertising for the better to truly reconnect and re-engage with the public. As practitioners in advertising, IPA members are conscious of their vital role in creating campaigns that enable people to have confidence and faith in our industry. We are creative problem-solvers, so we look forward to working with our peers from across the advertising business to see what we need to action to achieve a better outcome in the next survey.”
Phil Smith, Director General, ISBA, commented: “We recognise that trust has declined and the research has enabled us to identify the factors contributing to this decline. We are working with our members to understand and address these factors and are committed to action. Trust is a key theme for us this year which will sit at the heart of much of our work.”