The industry’s five-step plan to improve trust in advertising


By Jennifer Faull, Deputy Editor

March 5, 2019 | 6 min read

Earlier this year, a joint research project between the Advertising Association, Isba and Credos revealed that consumer trust in advertising had hit a record low. The trade bodies have now revealed a collaborative five-step plan aimed at tackling the issue.

Advertising associatin

The industry’s five-step plan to improve trust in advertising

According to the ‘Trust Working Group’ research, public favourability towards advertising was just 25% last December. In 1992, that figure was 48%.

The new blueprint, revealed on Tuesday (5 March) at Isba's annual conference, detailed how the group plans to address the problem.


Bombardment of advertising messages was found to be the biggest issue of all the public concerns about advertising and accounts for half of the ‘negatives’ in the research, with 45% of people saying they are annoyed by repetition and obtrusiveness of advertising, and 35% saying they are irritated by volume.

To tackle it, the group will encourage more industry players to sign-up to the IAB UK Gold Standard and bind them to conform to the standards set by the global Coalition for Better Ads when it comes to display advertising (search is not included).

The trade bodies said there are 113 digital advertising companies currently participating, including Google and Facebook, but the ambition is now to get all relevant IAB UK members to sign-up to achieve certification by the end of 2020.

For Isba's part, it plans to work more closely with the IAB in order to “deepen engagement” with agencies.

Achieving that would mean that around 20% of total UK ad spend, or 48% of total digital ad spend, would be Gold Standard-proof.

Excessive frequency

The group also plans to bring senior marketers together to develop best practice guidelines to deal with people’s annoyance over the excessive frequency of ads and the feeling that brands are “following” them around even after they have bought the product.

It said it may introduce a new set of KPIs for brands as they introduce more control for excessive frequency, including re-targeting, and may bring in more consumer-facing controls for frequency to sit alongside existing safety, transparency and other controls.

The group also wants to see the industry become more “joined up” about best practice, including principles laid down in codes and acknowledged by the ICO, including the DMA and MRS Codes.

Increasing awareness of self-regulation

Trust in advertising is strongly correlated with perceptions of how responsible the industry is. Awareness of regulatory body the ASA is at a high, but the system is “under strain” according to the whitepaper and so the working body plans to “deliver strategic and joined-up industry support for the ASA” and help increase public awareness about its role.

To test how impactful advertising campaigns promoting the ASA are on trust levels n advertising, the body plans to invest in an upweighted advertising campaign about the regulatory in one area of the UK to test levels of public awareness and favourability towards advertising.

Data Privacy

Best practice around data use has been a focus for industry trade bodies for some time but there is a lingering concerns that people don’t know how advertisers use their data or how it supports services, such as publishers.

The group wants to widen industry awareness of good data practice and plans to support the ICO’s ‘Your Data Matters’ campaign which was quietly launched after the implementation of GDPR. Like the ASA, it plans to test in the second half of the year, and in a different region/nation to the ASA, upweighted campaign from the ICO on data privacy to see how it impacts people’s awareness and trust in adverting.

Showing how brands drive societal change

Finally, the body plans to better demonstrate how advertising can drive social change. It plans to put more backing behind work such as the ‘Eat Them to Defeat Them’ campaign to increase vegetable consumption among children as well as the not for profit organisation Media Smart which aims to ensure all young people (7-14 year olds) are able confidently to navigate the media, including being able to identify, interpret and critically evaluate all forms of advertising.

It will also encourage more companies in the UK to support UN Women’s Unstereotype Alliance.

'Get back to great advertising'

“This is the framework the industry needs to address the long-term decline in trust. This is in reality a hygiene factor, it’s just sorting out what we need to do, it’s a first step, when we start addressing these issues we’ll start to see trust coming back,” said Keith Weed, outgoing chief marketing officer at Unilever and president of the AA.

“Great advertising is the best builder of trust. So yes, we need sort out the industry but we also need to get back to great ads. We got a bit caught up in data and targeting and that is important, we needed to build those muscles, but we need to move on and get back to doing what we did so brilliantly – great advertising.”


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