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Trust in the digital duopoly isn’t what it was, advertisers should take note

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Internet giants like Facebook and Google dominate the digital advertising marketplace. Accounting for a whopping 63% of all ad spend online, the consensus is that the internet giants’ social and digital media environments are where most of us spend our time online. If you’re not advertising on these sites, your brand simply isn’t being seen. But is that really the case?

The latest consumer research conducted by The Harris Poll, in collaboration with OpenX, suggests that while far from over, our love affair with the digital duopoly is not what it once was. We’ve seen too many reports of fake news, inappropriate content, data misuse, and online bullying to carry on as before. We still use these services, but we perhaps trust them less and are more willing to look elsewhere for high-quality content.

The numbers speak for themselves. 77% of people trust ’open web’ news sites (for example, any website or app that’s not owned by a major technology company) more than those owned by the internet giants. What’s more, only 31% of people see Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram as the first port of call for high-quality content. That compares to 61% who would first visit the open web.

Importantly, people are more likely to report experiencing negative emotions when on one of the internet giants’ sites, with Instagram and Facebook fairing particularly badly. Over 40% of people say Facebook can leave them unhappy, upset, unsatisfied or unfulfilled. 48% who claim Facebook makes them unhappy say this unhappiness has increased in the past 12 months. For Instagram the figure is 40%.

Perhaps as a result of the way these platforms make us feel, and the growing trust issues we have with them, we are spending less time on them. 31% percent of the people surveyed use Facebook less than they did a year ago, and 26% plan to decrease their Facebook usage further.

Judging by where advertisers spend their budgets, many brands still believe people spend most of their time online using the major platforms. This simply isn’t the case. In fact, 66% of our time is spent on the open web compared to just 34% on Facebook, YouTube and the like.

These figures fly in the face of received wisdom and they present advertisers with an important question. If consumers view the open web as higher quality, and the open web is visited more often and trusted more, why does it account for just over a third of ad spend?

This is just one study, but it does suggest a growing perception lag in the digital ad industry. The internet giants will always be important for reaching audiences, but it does seem that unless advertisers balance a little more in favour of the open web brands risk missing out on many of the audiences they seek to reach. That’s bad news for advertisers and consumers alike.

Rich Ottoy, vice president of business development EMEA, OpenX

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