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5 key takeaways from the AA trust paper

Published on Monday, 9th March 2020, contributed by Stratton Craig

Need a quick round-up of the recent Advertising Association (AA) trust paper? Here are our top five insights from the report, as well as our take on what they mean for the world of written communications.  

1. Advertising is the least trusted industry

Trust in advertising has been falling since the 1990s, when around 50% of the public felt favourably towards the industry. Now, just 25% of people view advertising in a favourable light. Advertising has slipped into last place when it comes to the industries we trust, behind even energy and banking. 

As you might have seen in our recent blog about The Edelman Trust Barometer, trust is something we value more than ever. 

The AA asserts that, if banking and energy have found ways to foster public trust, advertising needs to do the same. And it’s not too late to do so either, as research found that the industry is still seen as a ‘good thing with downsides’, and a cause for annoyance rather than genuine concern.

2. 97% of people think ‘advertising’ also covers other types of marketing and promotion

While the AA’s report primarily offers guidance to the advertising industry, it points out the vast majority of consumers group other kinds of marketing and promotion into the same bucket. This could mean that other forms of promotion, like content marketing, might be viewed with as much suspicion and irritation as billboards and online ads. So, it’s important for anyone using written or visual mediums for sales to consider transparency and integrity as key factors in maintaining the impact of your communications. 

3. ‘Bombardment’ is the public’s biggest concern about advertising

Unsurprisingly, the number one thing irking the public about ads is how repetitive and obtrusive they can be. Many of us also worry about how invasive advertising sometimes feels, particularly ads that follow us around the internet even after we’ve bought the product. 

Though this raises questions about how tech companies use our data to target us, these findings could encourage brands to step away from intensive advertising campaigns. The AA suggests that reducing the frequency of adverts is also likely to benefit companies financially. It could free up budgets for other marketing strategies that feel more genuine and build better relationships with new and existing customers.  

4. Favourability and trust in advertising are driven by how responsible the industry is

Independent think tank Credos found that the advertising industry needs to be more responsible if it wants to build people’s trust. Credos’ findings echo those in The Edelman Trust Barometer, which revealed that ethics are three times more important in establishing stakeholder trust than an industry’s perceived competence. 

And, while the ASA makes sure that all advertising meets its standards, the AA suggests that companies need to self-regulate too. Producing content that is straightforward, honest and clear needs to be a priority if the ad world wants to turn its reputation around. 

5. Showing how advertising can affect social change is a major priority 

Following the ASA’s 2017 ‘gender stereotype’ ban, the AA wants the ad industry to become more aware of the cultural impact great ads can have. It has formed the UK’s Chapter of the Unstereotype Alliance, which encourages companies to get rid of lazy and harmful gender-based stereotypes. The alliance also works to promote socio-economic, race, age and ability diversity across the ad world.

Unilever found that when it tested progressive ads through Kantar Millward Brown, the ads created 25% more branded impact and were viewed as 21% more credible than previous campaigns. So, it’s clear that there’s an appetite for socially responsible and progressive ads, rather than those relying on the same old tired tropes. 

Building trust is key

Our take on this report is that consumers feel jaded by aggressive advertising and it’s damaging the overall reputation of marketing. As the ASA implements tighter controls to make sure adverts are accurate and transparent, companies might be looking for different strategies to promote their brand. 

Carefully curated content and a well-implemented content strategy can complement advertising, drawing people to your brand, products and services without an overtly sales-y feel. By offering your audience genuine and thoughtful content you can earn their attention, loyalty and trust. 

Looking to make your content more trustworthy? Get in touch and see how we can help you.