UK consumers mixed on advertising

04 May 2011

LONDON: A majority of UK consumers trust advertising, but many hold a negative view of the ad industry as a whole, according to a new study.

Specialist think tank Credos commissioned research firm ComRes to survey 2,053 people about their opinions covering communications, and found that 69% of respondents trusted advertising to "some extent" or "a great extent".

Less positively, only 56% of those polled afforded a similar status to the entire sector, the figures showed.

When assessing a broader notion of "favourability" regarding the advertising business, participants yielded an average of 49%.

This constituted a substantially better return than energy's 28%, banking's 29% and the media's 46%, but lagged behind telecoms' 68% and retail's 76%.

Previous data collected by trade body the Advertising Association, a financial backer of Credos, revealed perceptions on the same metric remained above 50% throughout the 1980s.

By contrast, analysis conducted in 2009, in the midst of the recession, demonstrated that ratings had dropped to 29%.

Credos suggested a contributing factor to improved results was amending the content of a multiple choice answer concerning this matter.

More specifically, the 2009 questionnaire allowed interviewees to say they were "neither favourable or unfavourable", an option ultimately selected by 45% of consumers involved.

The updated version switched to the expression "no opinion" instead, and was chosen by just 6% of the 2011 sample.

Tim Lefroy, chief executive of the Advertising Association, said:"The public isn't necessarily indifferent to advertising, but ... there is perhaps a tension between their view of the ads they see and hear, and of the advertising industry itself."

Elsewhere, two-thirds of shoppers agreed with the proposition that the sector played an essential part in governmental campaigns.

Issues thought to be of particular importance included not driving after drinking alcohol, lodging 77%, fraudulent benefit claims, with 60%, and promoting healthy eating, hitting 55%.

"It is encouraging to see that so many people recognise the social and economic value of advertising," Karen Fraser, director of Credos, said.

"It has a vital role to play in supporting social causes, helps other industries compete efficiently, and is a major employer in its own right.

"That said, there is more that the industry could do to build a more positive reputation among the public."

Data sourced from Credos/The Drum; additional content by Warc staff