Half of Americans Don’t Trust the Ads They’re Exposed To

April 15, 2014

YouGov-Americans-Trust-in-Advertising-Apr2014Only 3% of Americans completely trust the advertisements they see, read or hear, while 11% don’t trust them at all, according to the results of a survey conducted by YouGov. The survey found that among American adults who see any advertising at least once a month, 44% find them to be fairly (37%) or very (7%) dishonest, and half don’t trust them. The figures were fairly consistent across demographic groups, with a couple of notable exceptions.

That exception was black Americans: just 31% believe the ads they see are dishonest, and an equal percentage don’t trust them. Perhaps brands should rethink the fractional amount of advertising spending they’re directing at black Americans.

Blacks’ relative trust in advertising is notable as most other demographic breakdowns featured narrower gaps in perception. For example, men were more likely to distrust advertising than women (53% vs. 47%), but not to a large degree. Similarly, while 18-34-year-olds proved most distrusting of ads (53%), 35-54-year-olds, the least-trusting, weren’t too far behind (42%).

Interestingly, distrust for advertising tended to rise alongside educational attainment: some 65% of those with a post-graduate degree distrust advertising to some extent, versus 44% of those with a high school degree or less.

Frequently-used tactics in advertising don’t seem to matter much to respondents, according to the study. Although 15% of respondents are more likely to believe the claims made by brands that compare themselves with a named competitor, 26% are less likely to believe those claims. A similar pattern emerges when it comes to the inclusion of testimonials from experts or scientists: 16% are more likely to believe these claims, but 29% are less likely to. As for mentioning awards won by the product or service? It seems a wash: 20% are more likely to believe the claim, while 22% are less likely.

Just 1 in 8 respondents overall feel that the current requirements for proving claims in advertising are about right. By comparison, a majority 58% feel that there should be stronger claims.

Which product types are the worst offenders? Diet products, financial or insurance services/products and pharmaceutical products are the least trustworthy, according to respondents, while casual dining restaurants (other than fast food) and clothing stores engender the most trust.

See here for a ranking of the advertising forms most trusted by global consumers.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 987 US adults who see any advertising at least once a month. Survey-takers were advised that, by advertisements, YouGov was referring to “any commercials you see on television or hear on the radio or any advertisements you may read in newspapers, magazines or see online.”

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