Trust in ads

Is Trust in Ads Declining?

Consumers and trust in ads- the facts and figures

Marketers often state that trust in ads is decreasing among consumers, especially with the rise of online stores that host sellers with a less than savoury reputation…

Marketing week surveyed 472 marketers and they discovered that they’re four times more likely to think brand trust has declined rather than risen over the last 20 years.
Keith Weed, the former CMCO of Unilever, stated that “public trust and favourability towards the advertising industry has been in a long-term decline since the early 1990s.”

However, the data appears to shine a different light on the issue!

The Advertising Association (AA) shows a fairly flat trend on trust in the ad industry, with a slight decline occurring after a rise between 2015-2018.

Trust in ads (AA)

Edelmen data also released information measuring trust in business instead of the ad industry.

This data appears much more positive.

Each year the numbers fluctuate, but the overall trend is upwards and the trust among the general public has remained broadly flat.

Edelman trust graph

If we really want to look in more depth, we have the Ipos Veracity Index which stretches back to 1983. The data measures whether respondents trust various professions, from CEOs to politicians, to be honest.

Although it depends on the industry, most professions have a fairly flat trend, with some trust levels rising from time to time.

Ipos veracity data

If the data we’ve seen show no significant drop in trust, how can headlines and marketers make such negative claims?

Well, if we consider favourability and trust in ads, favourability has seen a steady drop from the 1990’s to 2008 but remains flat soon after that year.
Here’s where the issue arises, between 2011 and 2018, both factors were flat!

AA argue that since both factors behaved similarly between 2011 and 2018, trust must have declined in the preceding years alongside favourability.
A report which claims trust has declined since the 1990s doesn’t measure trust that far back, let alone show any decrease.

Most researchers and marketers call this the trust myth.
It’s important we debunk this myth because the truth matters!

There’s also the opportunity cost.
If we solely focus on boosting trust, we ignore more pressing issues such as ad favourability.
Improving ad favourability is a completely different kettle of fish than boosting trust.

Increasing ad favourability means looking at what worked in the past and understanding what people want in the current climate.
For example, you wouldn’t create a boring ad that possibly insults or comes across as poor taste but if you create a charming ad your audience will find interesting and enjoyable people would be more likely to buy the product and/or service.

In turn, increasing your ad favourability!

If we accept that trust is low but has always been low it makes sense to learn from brands who have successfully tackled the problem and look more into ad favourability.

One extremely effective tactic companies have previously utilised comes from behavioural science.

The Pratfall effect is the idea that trust can be gained by admitting a flaw.
People like to relate and know that even the biggest brands sometimes blunder because, well, nobodies perfect!

Your weakness is your strength when it comes to advertising.
Just take a look at Volkswagen’s‘ Ugly is only skin-deep’ campaign which accepted the car might not look anything special from the outside- accepting their negatives and using them as a positive to show off the inside.
The public love honesty and if you show an honest front, any other claims will become more tangible.

Get creative, learn from the past, and have fun designing your next ad campaign!
Ads are still as relevant as ever, we recommend not listening to the marketing hype.

If you’re in need to get your ad campaign up and running, please feel free to contact our team on either 07592124699 or

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