Contextual Advertising and Trust

Marketers are increasingly likely to buy media that consumers trust, that they believe is giving them good value for what they pay, and that their target audiences engage with.  Although that should always have been the case, there’s now a name for this: the flight to quality.

The flight to quality pulls consumers toward publishers who have reader trust that they can “share,” almost like a halo effect, with an advertiser. Last year Galaxy Research, an Australian company, interviewed nearly 3000 Australians to see what kind of media they trusted most. For people 18 and older, the highest levels of trust were in movie ads and newspaper ads, and the lowest  levels of trust were in social. TV and digital news scored in the middle.

One Australian consumer went so far as to say that “I trust the newspapers and their websites to only accept reputable advertising.”

On the other hand, since the American election, there is a new global awareness of the problem of fake news and the spread of digital misinformation like wildfire through networks. This is a problem for both publishers and advertisers, as the Galaxy study showed that greater trust in ads translates to greater purchase intent.

Most apparent in the study was the general decline of trust in all media and all ads by people who are above 55. These people still trusted newspapers the most, but their level of trust was higher for community and local papers than for national papers. They also trusted radio.

Anecdotally, this translates to a high level of trust for “talk radio” in the American 55+ population, and its subsequent support by major national brands.

Given the fact that this study was done in Australia and completed before the revelations of Cambridge Analytica, a surprising fact was the low level of trust consumers of any age placed in social media advertising. One consumer said “So many frauds and scammers on social media at the moment and really no way to be sure the advertisement is legit or not.”

What does this mean? For us it means that advertisers want to buy media whose messages are trusted by consumers. Greater trust in content leads to greater trust in ads, which leads to greater intent to purchase. And news media, both print and digital, have highly trusted content and ads.

As Galaxy says, “brands are known by the company they keep.”