Trust in ‘earned’ media grows in importance

Most consumers believe editorial and word-of-mouth more than paid-space advertising. PR executives have known that since the days of Johannes Gutenberg. Now they can prove it.

In a new study from Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising. That’s an increase of 18 percent since 2007.

Other forms of advertising gaining consumer trust include:

  • Consumer opinions posted online (70 percent)
  • Editorial content/newspaper articles (58 percent)
  • Branded websites (58 percent)
  • Emails (50 percent)
  • Ads on TV, brand sponsorships, ads in magazines, billboards and outdoor advertising (47 percent)
  • Mobile phone text ads (29 percent)

Advertising continued to fare better but still ranked lower in trustworthiness than friends and editors. Only a third of global online consumers trust webpage banner ads, but that number is higher than it was in a 2007 survey. Forty percent trust ads that appear in search engine results, also up from 2007.

Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey of more than 28,000 Internet respondents in 56 countries shows that while nearly half of consumers around the world say they trust paid television, magazine and newspaper ads, confidence has declined by about a quarter in each of those categories since 2009.

That runs contrary to spending trends, where marketers continue to allocate a hefty portion of their funds to traditional advertising. In 2011, overall global ad spend saw a seven percent increase over 2010, according to Nielsen’s most recent Global AdView Pulse. “This growth in spend was driven by a nearly 10 percent increase in television advertising, with countries, including the U.S. and China, attracting more advertising dollars versus the year prior,” Nielsen reported.

— Jeff Widmer