Sitting around the pages of this newspaper are advertisement. For those ads to work three things need to happen. First, you must start reading the paper. Next, you have to actually notice the ad and process it. Finally, having taken in the ad’s message you must believe what it is trying to tell you.
As the battle for advertising revenues intensified over the past decade two of these component challenges have been measured and compared with ever greater scrutiny. The media industry is obsessed with audience reach and circulation and is constantly debating which media attract the most eyeballs. It’s a similar story with viewability, the second measure. Most media channels go to great lengths these days to reassure advertisers their ad is presented in the right place and at the right time to ensure that customers see it and process its message.
But when it comes to whether consumers believe the ads they see, there is far less data. That’s why the annual publication of the Adtrust survey by News Media Works is such an important event. The survey, built from interviews with more than 4000 Australians, measures how much consumers trust different media channels and was published today.
The Adtrust research measures the trust in both the content and the advertising being carried by each medium. That is important because although there are many studies examining how much consumers trust radio versus TV, there is very little data on how much of that trust carries over to the specific ads.
To measure this, the Adtrust study subtracts the number of consumers who indicate they do not trust ads in a particular medium from the proportion that do. For example, if 30 per cent of the market trust TV advertising and 9 per cent don’t, the net trust score for TV ads would be +21.
This year’s results paint a fascinating picture for advertisers and provide one important conclusion: traditional media channels are significantly more trusted by consumers than digital alternatives. The most trusted ads are newspaper ads, with a net trust score of +38, followed by ads seen in cinema (+34), outdoor (+31), radio (+29) and TV (+21). Ads encountered in digital formats such as social media (-28) and websites (-16) are significantly less trusted.
The trust gap between traditional media and digital media is gigantic. And it is increasing. In the past 12 months the net trust for newspaper ads leapt by 10 points. It was a similar story for outdoor advertising, radio and TV. In the era of fake news the power of traditional media to deliver both content and advertising that consumers believe grows stronger every year. Trust in social media ads continues to decline, down 3 points in the past year.
The results also paint a bleak picture for Facebook. After the events of the last year, in which the data of hundreds of thousands of Australian users was improperly shared and the Cambridge Analytica scandal took its toll, more than half of all Australians (58 per cent) say they now trust Facebook less than last year. The social media giant might be increasing its audience and share of advertising spend in this country, but it is distrusted more by Australians.
To Facebook’s credit, it is fully aware of the issue. Last week the platform kicked off a major advertising campaign to address the lack of trustworthiness associated with its brand and the increasingly negative perceptions. “We hope this campaign will show that we take our responsibility seriously and are working to improve Facebook for everyone in a way that enables communities to build and flourish,” Facebook’s ANZ boss Will Easton explained last week.
But in attempting to rebuild trust in Facebook, Easton and his team face a deliciously paradoxical challenge. On the one hand, Facebook needs to re-engage with customers and send a clear message of trustworthiness. But the medium, as every communications professional knows, is the message. Facebook is fully aware that social media and other digital platforms are the wrong media to get their message of trust across.
Instead Facebook has quite correctly opted to use traditional media channels to communicate its new trust campaign. Launched last week, the two-month campaign uses outdoor advertising, TV and cinema ads to say Facebook is no longer tolerating fake news and is committed to reducing its influence on society.
It’s a powerful message and a strategically sound campaign. But the fact that Facebook has used non-digital channels to deliver its message of trust should underline the findings from the Adtrust research and send a powerful signal to brands considering their 2018 media mix. I applaud Facebook’s marketing team for avoiding digital channels to make their point.
Other advertisers should take note of Facebook’s decision. If you have a brand or a message that requires credibility, trust and belief, it is worth paying the extra costs for traditional media. It’s one thing for your ad to be seen by 1000 people, quite another for those people to believe the message you are trying to deliver.
My only slight disappointment with the new Facebook campaign is that the company missed the biggest opportunity of all to deliver its message trust by buying ads in news media too. The Adtrust results are very clear; advertising in newspapers is the most trusted advertising of all and as such newspaper ads would have been perfect for this campaign.
Perhaps next week the ad you see in the paper will be from Facebook?