I just read an article called “The Trust Issue” by David Morgan in the Online Spin blog. In the post, Morgan is referencing a report from Nielsen that shows that consumers don’t trust Internet advertising. Here’s an excerpt:
A global study from Nielsen … found consumers don’t trust Internet advertising nearly as much as they trust traditional forms of advertising. The Nielsen study, based on an online survey of more than 26,000 consumers, asked respondents their perceptions of different forms of advertising. The results? Consumers rated Internet advertising at the bottom when it comes to trust as compared to offline media. Specifically, 63% said they trust newspaper ads, 56% trusted TV spots and magazine placements — while search ads got a trust thumbs-up from just 34%, and banner ads were trusted by just 26% of the respondents.
He goes on to talk about some ways to help change consumer perception about online advertising. It’s a good article, go read it. But as much as I am an advocate for the Internet and Internet advertising, and as much as I would like us to work at changing negative perceptions about the Internet, I actually agree with the consumers – they are right to not trust Internet advertising as much as they trust TV or print.
TV and print advertising is obvious. You can tell – with close to 100% accuracy – when something is an advertisement and when something isn’t. And I think that this is the main reason why Internet advertising got such low marks – not necessarily because the ads themselves weren’t trustworthy (although that is probably part of it), but because consumers are unsure when they are being shown an ad, and when it’s “real content.”
There are so many ways that Internet advertising is fuzzy. Just think of Google, the second most popular Web site in the U.S., according to Alexa. On the Google search results page, ads run at the top and along the sides – and they are clearly labeled – but many consumers still don’t realize that they are looking at ads because the results look very similar to the organic search results. And what is listed in those ads is sometimes misleading. And that is just one example – there are many others. Bloggers are paid by companies to write reviews of their products with services such as ReviewMe. Parked domains gather advertising revenue from direct navigation (when keywords are typed directly into the search bar), the sites seem like they are providing information, but they are really just collecting PPC dollars. Pop-up ads arise from nowhere and refuse to disappear.
I love the Internet and I am a fan of these new and exciting business models, but there just aren’t the same standards online when it comes to the separation of “editorial” and “marketing” – it is sometimes hard to know what is an ad and what isn’t. In my opinion, at this point, the consumers are right to mistrust.
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