28% of Consumers Distrust Online Ads

BY Kathy Crosett

Marketers are gradually increasing their digital advertising budgets. But 28% of consumers distrust online ads according to a new Magna survey. Ironically, another study fielded by YouGov highlights the trust that consumers have in traditional media advertising.

The Value of Traditional Advertising

YouGov’s most recent survey of over 18,000 global adults shows traditional advertising rules when it comes to consumer trust. In the U.S. market, where we talk a lot about the increased consumer use of digital media, TV, print and radio rank as having the most trustworthy advertising. And social media, which takes up as much as two hours a day of consumer media use scores near the bottom of the trust scale.

  • TV 46%
  • Print 46%
  • Radio 45%
  • Search engines 38%
  • Podcasts 30%
  • Internet websites 30%
  • Direct mail 29%
  • Posters/​billboards 29%
  • Cinemas 28%
  • Social media 19%

Given these sentiments, it’s worth asking why so many marketers continue to increase their investment in digital advertising. In the early days, the allure of digital ad spend was enhanced by the price. It was inexpensive to target online users when compared to traditional advertising. As online advertising capability grew more sophisticated, marketers were able to track consumers and retarget them. Social media platforms also allowed smaller businesses the ability to target specific audiences with an accuracy that wasn’t possible when they used mass media such as daily print publications.

At the same time, consumers grew more savvy about what social media sites knew about them. And they weren’t always happy about being followed as they visited online sites. These trends and the YouGov research dovetail with some of the findings Magna released about studies it conducted regarding consumer opinions about online advertising.

28% of Consumers Don’t Trust Online Ads

The Magna survey took place at the end of 2020. At that time, 28% of respondents reported not trusting online ads. In addition to the trust factor, consumers dislike online ads.

Consumers spend a lot of time online these days. They’re not always in a shopping mindset when they’re catching up on the news. When they see the same ad take over their screens during the day, they get aggravated. And they particularly dislike being served ads for products they already bought.

How to Improve Consumer Reception to Online Ads

In his analysis of the Magna study, Ethan Jakob Craft emphasizes that music in online ads is not universally loved by consumers. To avoid aggravating potential customers, marketers should carefully consider whether music is essential to the online message they want to deliver.

Another potential solution to the current negative attitude about online advertising is to reduce ad load. When consumers were asked about their feelings on ad frequency, researchers learned that consumers would respond more positively to seeing few ads.

Consumers also don’t appreciate being tricked. Native content should be marked as such. When your clients pay for sponsored or native content space, let them know about your company's stance on properly identifying this content. Consumers also don't like to be tricked about what's being done with their personal information. According to our research, 48% of U.S. adults reported that websites and search engines should not sell their information without their permission. 

Some of the problems regarding online advertising can be solved by a good partnership between the publishers and advertisers. If consumers are going to tune out messages on a cluttered site, publishers may have better success by selling less ad space for a higher price. In return, the advertisers will gain an audience that is more appreciative of authentic and classy messaging. 

Talk over this issue with your clients and help them develop a media plan that works best to reach their target audience. And be mindful of the ad loads on your site.