Trust us, we're in advertising

Written by Stuart Butler, Planning Director

The Advertising Association has released a report at the ISBA conference summarising that consumer trust in advertising is at an all-time low. According to the report, public favourability towards advertising was just 25% in figures taken from December 2018 – down from 48% in 1992.
The report explores the reasons for this and lists five actions the industry should take:

1. To reduce advertising ‘bombardment’
2. To reduce excessive advertising frequency and re-targeting
3. To ensure that the ASA is “best in class”
4. To ensure that data privacy matters 5. To show that advertising can drive social change.

In essence, a large amount of communications is seen as being irrelevant or annoying, as well as the ongoing suspicions about data usage, there’s a general feeling of being ‘bombarded’ and ‘intrusive’.

That said, there’s still a recognition that advertising can be a force for good, especially in reflecting things such as social diversity.

It seems to essentially recognise getting back to working out why and how to engage consumers honestly and intelligently, pushing back on the ‘we target because we can’ approach seen perhaps a little too often in recent years.

There’s a lot of debate at the moment about returning to creative craft, using data more humanly, and the need to challenge the pervading focus on short termism exhibited by many advertisers.

Whilst you could argue a lot of this is principally a media issue it is pertinent for us all in the marketing industry. We should take real notice of this as a signal change in what can be a sometimes-lacklustre approach and use it as evidence that the roots of what makes great advertising (insight, relevance, distinctiveness) is as true as it’s ever been.

While the tools at our disposal have changed radically, perhaps it’s time to get back to basics in what makes a truly great idea?

So, what should we do about this?

Well without sounding flippant, if you have a good strategic approach to your brand and communications then really (hopefully) very little. But this is a good time to remind ourselves of some fundamentals because this issue is manifest in the tactics used, but starts with the mindset and approach.

1. Be clear on what your brand is ‘for’ and how your products add value to consumers lives. It sounds obvious but with highly sophisticated targeting, it’s sometimes a little easy to fall into the trap of just putting a product in front of people.

2. Be honest and do the right thing. Consumers want brands to play a positive role in their lives and societies wellbeing. We are not in a world where people reject brands it’s just increasingly brands aren’t stepping up.

Brand perception is increasingly built within peer groups, so this must be built bottom up. Is your customer experience good? Are your ingredients and packaging healthy and sustainable? Don’t expect plaudits for getting this stuff right, it’s what you should be doing, but consumers are increasingly conscientious and their experience of your products and brands are far more powerful than your ads or content.

3. Think of your communication as a gift. Good advertising should still entertain, inform and delight. Creativity remains key perhaps more than ever, but it is also always grounded in a truth. This ‘value exchange’ is key – if you want something from the audience how are you going to earn it, and what are you giving them back.

4. Be clear on the role of communication. Awareness is rarely an objective. Advertising by its nature is based on the premise that it will be seen by people. Metrics like click through rates similarly have little real meaning.

We need instead focus on how to drive better incremental gain ahead of the competition and that’s rarely achieved by deploying the same capabilities as your rivals.

It’s not just about efficiency but effectiveness. However much of your audience did respond, it’s likely the majority didn’t – so why not? Communication works much more effectively when its addressing barriers as opposed to merely accentuating the positives.

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