Trust Me…

Disclosure – BJ&A has done work for Kantar Media, mentioned in this post

Last week’s Cog Blog outlined the findings from the ISBA / PwC report into the transparency of the programmatic supply chain, indicating that a large chunk of the average advertiser’s online budget doesn’t arrive at the intended destinations.

Many of the online experts’ comments on social media concentrated on theories around the 15% that PwC had been unable to find. Oddly, less time was spent on the total of 49% that goes somewhere other than the intended end publisher. Granted there are legitimate fees in there, but 49% is far higher than it should be.

As indeed is the average number of sites used by those large advertisers participating in the study. Who needs 40,000, 50,000 or more sites to reach their media goals? Especially when the typical agency ‘white list’ of acceptable sites is somewhere around 2,000 – 3,000.

The word that keeps occurring to me is ‘trust’.

Clients trust their agencies to look after and manage their budgets. Agencies trust the various middlemen they consider necessary to shepherd their advertisers’ budgets from source to intended destination (or, if we’re being cynical, to ensure that they can continue to get away with siphoning off bits of budget to bolster their sagging margins without anyone noticing). Publishers trust agencies when they leap onto platforms to say that the context delivered by premium content is a key element in any campaign’s success.

At its heart, the ISBA / PwC work suggests that this trust is undeserved.

Indeed, ‘trust’ seems to be in short supply around our business.

Wherever you look, there’s a study providing further evidence to this trust shortage. The consultancy IDComms in the 2019 edition of their annual study amongst marketing and media professionals asked if agencies ‘Provide neutral and objective planning recommendations’.

Those within the sample with an overall marketing responsibility scored agencies at 2.47. Client media professionals scored them 2.35.

IDComms’s 5-point scale has 1 as ‘unacceptable’ and 3 as ‘below expectations’.

Advertisers think that agencies’ ability to act in a sufficiently neutral or objective fashion is ‘below expectations’. They don’t trust them to behave objectively.

Do consumers trust the industry’s output?

Trust in advertising as a whole has been hitting historic lows in studies by the Advertising Association amongst others. As Keith Weed, ex Unilever CMO put it on an AA stage, reported in the Financial Times (paywall) ‘advertising without trust is just noise.’

Earlier this week Kantar Media published the latest (fourth) version of its annual Dimension study. As in previous years this study combines consumer interviews (8,000 across 8 markets: France, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, USA, China, UK) with insights from industry leaders.

The consumer study asks: ‘which of the following do you use to get information about brands and services?’ followed by: ‘which of the following do you trust to get information about brands and services?’ Kantar Media calculates a ‘Trust Score’ from these two figures.

‘Advertising’ as a channel for information about brands and services scored lowest with an aggregated Trust Score across the 8 markets of 38.

In the UK the Trust Score for advertising is 29.

To put it another way, 14% of consumers across the eight markets trust advertising as a source of brand information.

In the UK that number reduces to 9%.

As comparisons for the global 38 number, news and information websites score 76; printed articles in newspapers and magazines, 73. This, remember for getting information about brands and services.

The Dimension work also asks consumers to score media channels on the basis of whether they trust them as sources of news and information.

Here Kantar Media has calculated a ‘Trust Gap’ the difference between those saying they trust a medium minus those who say they don’t trust it.

Newspapers come out best at plus 25; social media worst at minus 16.

There were some interesting differences by country, summarised here in The Drum.

For instance, newspapers score lowest comparatively in the UK (as against the other seven markets), where the Trust Gap is plus 9. TV programmes in the UK score highest at plus 26 (maybe the public trusts the BBC).

The Kantar Media data on the lack of trust in newspapers in the UK is not an outlier.

Every year Eurobarometer measures consumer trust in the written press across Europe. The UK has come bottom of this study 9 years out of the last 10. In 2019 we not only came bottom of the 33 countries covered but we also hit new lows with 15% saying they tend to trust the written press, versus 75% saying they tend not to trust it.

Summarised data is here in a tweet from the journalist Brian Cathcart. The UK’s net score of minus 60 is so far behind the next worst, Greece at minus 39 as to be almost out-of-sight.

Wherever you look you find a worrying lack of trust.

The online supply chain snaffles advertisers’ money, and our largest agencies fail to condemn or even comment on an issue that surely goes right to the heart of their most basic service – the management of their clients’ budgets. Credit to both Goodstuff, and The7Stars, independent agencies both for being amongst the very few to tackle the issues raised.

Advertisers don’t rate their agencies when it comes to giving them objective advice.

Consumers don’t trust advertising as a source of information on brands.

The UK public trusts newspapers less than their counterparts in other markets.

Thank goodness for bloggers, eh?!

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