Canadians still don’t trust online ads (Survey)

But does it matter if the ads are from their favourite brands?

Canadians generally have a favourable view of advertising, but they have lower trust levels for online ads compared to ads in traditional media, according to a new report from Advertising Standards Canada (ASC).

That was the case last year as well, when ASC’s 2014 Consumer Perspectives on Advertising revealed Canadians perceive higher levels of truth and accuracy in ads appearing in traditional media compared to online. So this year, ASC decided to probe a little deeper.

“We wanted to know why, and in particular, would online advertising for [consumers’] favourite brands change their minds?” said Linda Nagel, president and CEO of Advertising Standards Canada.

The 2015 survey, conducted by The Gandalf Group, found 56% of consumers do not find online advertising trustworthy. By comparison, 40% indicated television advertising is not trustworthy, followed by magazine ads (37%), out-of-home ads (35%), radio ads (33%) and ads in newspapers (30%).

Among those who find online untrustworthy, the top reasons are:

  • Online ads are false/manipulative (30%)
  • Internet is uncontrolled/unmonitored (16%)
  • Leads to scams, phishing, malware, etc. (16%)
  • Distrust all advertising (16%)
  • Can say anything online (9%)
  • Unreliable/distrustful sources of ads (8%)
  • Need to verify if reputable (6%)
  • Quality of online ads unappealing (6%)

However, like with traditional media, Canadians do have a more favourable view of online ads from their brands they know and like.

The survey found the majority of consumers are comfortable with the levels of truth and accuracy in online ads from products or services they trust or value (69% versus 81% of ads in general); their favourite brands or products (67% versus 80%); products or services they know or have used (66% versus 79%); and those that have been recommended by friends or family (61% versus 75%).

“Trusting a brand is an important determinant of trust in an ad,” said Nagel. “In terms of their favourite trusted brands, consumers are comfortable with advertising in all media. But there is still more trust in advertising in traditional media.”

Part of the reason could be there’s a perception the internet is less regulated than other forms of media, as previous ASC studies have shown, noted Nagel. “There’s a perception that the same standards don’t apply to online and offline media, so I think that could be skewing it,” she said.

Age is also a factor. Older consumers are more mistrustful of online ads, with 32% of those 65+ saying online ads are very trustworthy or somewhat trustworthy. Only 40% of those 35 and under said the same, with the 35-54 and 55-64 cohorts both at 47%.

When it comes to types of online ads, Canadians are more comfortable with the levels of truth and accuracy in promotional emails (38%), search (33%), pre-roll (30%) and banner ads (28%) than with other forms of digital advertising. At the bottom of the list: pop-up ads (17%) and in-app ads (19%).

But overall, most Canadians derive at least slight value from advertising, and only 12% believe advertising provides them no value at all. A majority (59%) find advertising helpful with decision-making, and 70% indicated they have a favourable impression of advertising they see, hear or read.


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