Americans Trust Soft Drink Advertising

February 15, 2010

Among five major industries, Americans trust soft drink advertising the most, according to a recent Harris Poll.

Thirty-four percent of respondents 18 and up said soft drink advertising was the most trustworthy, compared to advertising from the fast food, pharmaceutical, auto, and financial services industries. This percentage increased to 39% of 18-to-34-year-olds and 40% of 35-to-44-year-olds.


Fast Food Comes in Distant Second
Soft drink companies enjoy a wide margin in consumer trust ratings. The next-most trusted industry, fast food, only had its advertisements rated most trustworthy by 22% of all respondents 18 and up. Fast food’s best performance was among 45-to-54-year-olds, with a 27% most trustworthy rating.

Pharmaceutical companies came in third place, with advertisements rated most trustworthy by 18% of all respondents 18 and up, auto companies came in fourth place (14%), and financial services companies came in last (13%).

Financial Services Companies Have Least Trusted Ads
As would be expected given their poor performance in the category of most trusted advertisements, financial services companies were ranked least trustworthy by 38% of all respondents 18 and up. Financial services companies had the highest rankings for least trustworthy in all age brackets, but performed best among 45-to-54-year-olds, with a 37% least trustworthy ranking.


When rankings are broken out by region of the country, financial service advertisements are rated least trustworthy by a majority of Americans in the Midwest, South and West. However, financial service advertisements were only ranked least trustworthy by 32% of Easterners, putting them in second place in the East behind pharmaceutical companies (34%).

Pharmaceutical Companies Not Far Behind
Unlike the most trustworthy category, where soft drink advertisements have a significantly large margin of trust, in the least trustworthy category financial services companies have a smaller margin of distrust separating them from pharmaceutical companies. Twenty-nine percent of all respondents 18 and up ranked pharmaceutical companies as least trustworthy.

Forty-five-to-55-year olds showed the most distrust, with 33% of respondents in this age bracket ranking pharmaceutical companies as least trustworthy. As mentioned above, slightly more Easterners ranked pharmaceutical advertisements as least trustworthy than ranked financial services advertisements as least trustworthy.

Auto company advertisements are least trusted by 19% of all respondents 18 and up, followed by fast food companies (10%). The soft drink industry was the only industry to receive single-digit least trustworthy rankings among all age brackets and regions of the country, with a 4% overall least trustworthy ranking.

Financial Services Needs to Build Trust
The financial services industry has lost significant credibility with US consumers beyond the content of its advertising, according to a recent survey from PR firm Edelman. Twenty-nine percent of US respondents trust the banking industry (essentially a narrower subset of the financial services industry) to do what is right, according to the 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer. In 2007, 68% of US respondents trusted the banking industry to do what is right.

About the Survey: This Adweek Media/Harris Poll was conducted online within the US December 14 and 16, 2009 among 2,136 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Where appropriate, this data were also weighted to reflect the composition of the adult online population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

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