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Consumers trust newspaper ads most

January 15, 2014

Maybe consumer marketers shouldn't be in such a rush to move their advertising budget to online after all. A new research study by Nielsen found that, when it comes to which ads North American consumers trust, online and mobile ads are way at the bottom of the list.

According to the study's findings, by way of Statista, newspapers top the list of advertising forms that North Americans trust at 63 percent, followed by magazine ads (62 percent), television commercials (61 percent), radio (58 percent), and billboards (55 percent).

None of the new media ad forms reach a trust level of even 50 percent. The highest among them is search (44 percent), followed by online video (44 percent), social media ads (39 percent), mobile display (35 percent) and online banners (33 percent).

According to the Association of Magazine Media and Kantar Media, via Statista, newspaper advertising, local and national, accounted for 11.8 percent of total ad spending in the U.S. in 2012. Television, in various forms, represented 53.1 percent of the total. Internet spending was 8.7 percent.

Discussion Questions:

Should a medium's "trust factor" among consumers be a bigger consideration than it currently is when it comes to buying advertising? Why do you think online ads have such a relatively low trust level? What will it take to improve those numbers?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Which of the following media forms do you trust most when it comes to advertising?


The biggest consideration in advertising medium choice should be how much it will help your sales. I'm not sure trust is the relevant measure. Why would someone not trust a social media ad but trust customer reviews? Perhaps it's what is being advertised that causes the different trust levels rather than the medium itself?

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Dr. Stephen Needel, Managing Partner, Advanced Simulations

I have seen studies that show more than 75% of consumers don't trust ads in the first place, regardless of the media channel. I think there are those vital few brands, both regional and global that exhibit trust in their messaging. An additional challenge is the declining loyalty in brands as shown in a recent survey. Put those issues together and marketers and advertisers have some huge obstacles to overcome in 2014.

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Ralph Jacobson, Global Retail Industry Analytics Marketing Executive, IBM

I'm intrigued that media buying would be influenced by past media purchases. It's really about media consumption and influence. Paid advertising online has a ways to go before it can measure effectiveness. Consider outdoor advertising that has a particular context in which to create on sight messaging. Online has its own unique framework, not only for execution but for delivering a message.

But online is cool. On the other hand consumers have more concerns about paid for social media endorsements. Of course that's not exactly agency-created advertising, but it's in the same defined environment and by the way...it just could be that agencies help create and place those "consumer driven" comments.

How to get the "trust factor" in advertising? Ha! Someone tell me exactly when advertising had a winning "trust factor." There's always that believable celebrity endorsement as long as the celebrity doesn't get involved in any scandalous behavior.

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Joan Treistman, President, The Treistman Group LLC

The reality is that our hand-held devices are used mostly for C to C, or people to people communication and the hunting of information, not for commerce (although they're used for that somewhat). Wild guess is a 90 - 10 split in favor of the premier. Subsequently, it's an affront to get hit by ads during the discourse of those types of communication.

Although TV media is not as effective as it was before for many, many reasons, it's still probably the most powerful way to get a message across. I just wish they wouldn't run the exact same ad 50 times during a football game!!!

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Lee Peterson, EVP Brand, Strategy & Design, WD Partners

I'm in agreement with Stephen Needel on this. I question whether trust is the relevant metric. I think response is far more important. How we feel about a specific medium is much less important than how we actually respond to the message.

Ted Hurlbut, Principal, Hurlbut & Associates

First, do we really think that "trust" and "advertising" belong in the same sentence?

Putting that aside, each medium carries different types of advertising. Newspapers are filled with retail advertising that quotes special prices. Then when I go to the store and see that the chicken advertised for $3.99 a pound is actually $3.99 per pound I trust it.

If newspapers largely carried "attribute" advertising, trust would drop. How many "#1's," "best in class," "most preferred," et. al. can you believe?

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Gene Detroyer, Professor, Independent

One interesting (and glaring) omission in my estimation is the lack of including direct mail in the roster of advertising options evaluated. While most of us will moan about "junk mail" or speak disparagingly about the Postal Service (especially here in the United States) - there are studies that show that it is actually mail sent to the home that scores even better than those listed.

In terms of "trust" - it is a contributory factor" - but is not the same as the decision determinant (as Steve Needel correctly points out). So, there is much work to be done to increase the "trust" factor - however, it is not the same as being a 1:1 correlation to increasing the sales potential. It should not be dismissed out of hand - it IS important. However, it is not the only factor that deserves tracking and measuring.

The very notion of "ads" have a negative connotation. Few of us eagerly wish to be "sold" in the way that ads often attempt to communicate to us. We prefer to receive help in buying - answer questions, differentiate how MY life (as a buyer/shopper) would improve vs. doing nothing, using competitive offerings, etc., explain how I can compare and contrast options, explain how progress can be made, and on and on.

The focus is all too often on the seller and the product, and not on the buyer and the job to be done.

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David Zahn, Owner, ZAHN Consulting, LLC

I've never actually seen a mobile ad - and loving it! - but based on what I envision they look like, I think print ads have an advantage in that their size allows for actual information value (or at least the possibility of it, even if it's not always realized) whereas mobile must inevitably be purely promotional.


All the early promises about new media sell us bright shiny baubles. And they aren't. Online has turned out to be heavily burdened by scams.

In part, traditional media outlets all impose standards and practices reviews to ensure that the advertising is trustworthy. This survey may reflect exactly the result of that oversight.

Online? It's chaos out there...heck, an advertiser is lucky to even know which website their ad appeared on. So it's no surprise that consumers are affected by this looseness.

Doug Garnett, Founder & CEO, Atomic Direct

Advertising media should be bought based on core consumer behavior, not on a snapshot of "trust factor."

I want to know the trust factor based on demographics, household size, average weekly grocery expenditures. I would venture that demographics of newspapers (probably an older audience) are not as attractive as demographics from new media. Further, newspaper advertising does not allow for engagement or nurturing of a community like social media does.

The reality is that there is very few media that doesn't work, just badly used media.

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Carlos Arámbula, Strategist, One Ninth & Co-founder of MarcasUSA, One Ninth, MarcasUSA LLC

Trust is not the relevant metric. Response rate is what matters. Other studies show that more and more people only trust peer reviews, such as TripAdvisor or Amazon reviews. Advertising becomes more interesting as an attention grabber and image builder, vs. creator of trust.

Mike Osorio, Senior VP Organizational Change Management, DFS Group

I would much prefer to know what my target market is doing to find out where the things I own and sell are. I see little value in knowing what's hot and what's not in advertising without specific and relative demographic support. With discretionary money in short supply knowing what to say and where to say thing to "my" customer/prospect is the greatest importance.


I agree with others that peer and expert reviews are either becoming or are the "trusted" source for purchasing decisions. The statistical distribution of opinions is a fantastic gauge of true experience. The online ads, though, with a low trust factor, I believe, are seen as a nuisance to browsing or getting to your online destination.

I'd have to admit that I'm scratching my head at the trust factor for newspapers as automobile advertising still takes up a lot of ad space. Exposure to the dealerships yes, believability, cough.

Alan Cooper, Training Consultant, Independent/Freelance

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