Learn From Your Customers

Trustworthiness in advertising: what consumers have to say

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Trust in advertising consumer insights

Feel that?

Every time you go online, brands are competing for your attention. If you don’t feel it, chances are you’re using an adblocker. And you're not alone.

The number of consumers voicing frustration with intrusive digital ads (and the volume of consumers reportedly installing adblockers) should make digital marketers reconsider the efficacy of even the most targeted advertising efforts.

All of this advertising noise leaves most consumers wondering if they can really trust brands’ advertising claims, which in turn has led to the rising influence of online reviews on consumers’ purchasing decisions.

So, which digital marketing tactics do drive purchasing decisions? And is it possible to harness reviews to cut through the noise?

To get to the bottom of these key questions about trustworthiness and advertising, we surveyed over 2,000 individuals in the U.S. and the U.K. In part one of our report recap, we’ll walk through which common advertising activities affect buying behaviors in our ad blocked world. Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll examine the impact of online reviews on purchasing decisions.

Do ads make a difference when it comes time to purchase?

We’ll start unpacking this question with the self-reported impact of ads on consumer purchasing decisions.


Consumer insights on the effectiveness of different advertising channels

Whether you subscribe to the notion of effective frequency or ad fatigue, you’ll be interested to know that for each advertising platform included in our survey, less than a third of individuals thought they were influenced by ads of that kind.

Indeed, our data shows that shoppers are woefully unmoved by the ad content they encounter, whether it’s in the context of their search engine results or their favorite social network feed.

And commercials on streaming networks? These were deemed least influential over all, with just a quarter of survey respondents sharing that such ads had an impact on their purchasing behavior.

Impact of Ads on Purchases By Gender

Consumer insights about the influence of ads on purchasing decisions, broken out by gender

We did notice that in certain cases, women were more likely than men to mention ads as an influencing factor in their purchasing decisions. Roughly 1 in 3 women said targeted social media ads influenced their purchases, with 27% reporting that they’d been swayed by sponsored content, either on websites or social networking platforms.

Breaking down persuasion by nation

Interestingly, our data suggest that some digital marketing channels might resonate more with U.S. audiences than consumers in the U.K.

Persuasion by Nation

Impact of advertising broken out by US and UK consumers

Even though individuals in both the U.S. and U.K. were almost as likely to report that search ads and marketing emails affected their purchasing decisions, a greater percentage of Americans reported being influenced by targeted social media ads — and an even larger gap emerged around sponsored content.

When looking for parallels in level of persuasion by nation, we could only confirm the complexity of consumer experiences, and that no single platform or digital channel can dominate countrywide.

Can we answer consumer trust concerns?

Though our results have varied quite a bit across demographics, there’s one pervasive theme: For each kind of digital platform, most consumers regard ads as ineffective when it comes to influencing their purchasing behavior.

To sum up what we’ve uncovered in the first installment of our consumer insights report on trustworthiness in advertising, suspicion is widespread. Less than 3 in 10 consumers indicate trust in each channel of digital advertising.

Compared to U.K. residents, Americans were more trusting of advertising platforms in general, and women tended to trust digital ads at higher rates than men. However, even the most receptive demographic categories were still largely resistant to advertisers’ claims, supporting a trend that some are calling a full blown “consumer trust crisis”.

If the vast majority of consumers are skeptical of digital advertising, can it really be effective?

Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll examine the impact of online reviews on purchasing decisions.

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We collected responses from 2,048 consumers via a survey. U.S. respondents were collected using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and U.K. respondents through Prolific. 49.6% of participants currently resided in the U.K., and 50.4% currently resided in the U.S. 86.4% of participants currently resided in England, 8.9% in Scotland, and 4.7% in Wales. 10.8% of participants resided in the East Midlands, and 7.1% in East of England. 42.6% of participants were men, and 57.4% were women.

Demographics with a sample size below 26 were excluded from the analysis; for this study, that included residents of Northern Ireland. Also, data presented in this study rely on self-reporting, which can introduce issues such as, but not limited to, selective memory and exaggeration. Statistical testing was not conducted in this study, and the research conducted was exploratory. Future research could explore reviews and purchasing behavior.

Fair Use Statement

Don’t worry, ad skeptics: We’re not buying or selling anything here. Still, we’d love to see the results of this survey shared with a wider audience. For that reason, this project’s information and images are yours to use for any noncommercial purpose. Please simply provide a link back to this page so that our team receives due credit for their work.



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