They may not quite be grateful for advertising. But consumers realize it pays the bills for much of the content they enjoy—and, for that matter, that it helps the economy to function. Those are among the significant findings of a newly released global survey by Nielsen, AdweekMedia's parent company.
Conducted in some 50 markets in March and April, the polling found 67 percent of respondents agreeing (including 14 percent agreeing "strongly") that "Advertising funds low-cost and free content on the Internet, TV, newspapers and other media." Likewise, 81 percent agreed (22 percent strongly) that "Advertising and sponsorship are important to fund sporting events, art exhibitions and cultural events." (Download the survey.)
More broadly, the survey found 71 percent of global respondents agreeing (13 percent strongly) that "Advertising contributes to growth of the economy." Sixty-eight percent agreed (16 percent strongly) that "Advertising stimulates competition, which leads to better products and lower prices."
Respondents also acknowledged that advertising is useful to them personally as they navigate the marketplace. For example, 67 percent agreed (14 percent strongly) that "By providing me with information, advertising allows me to make better consumer choices." Respondents even confessed to enjoying advertising, at least some of the time, with 66 percent agreeing (13 percent strongly) that "Advertising often gets my attention and is entertaining."
There was some regional variation in the incidence of agreement that advertising enables consumers to make better choices by providing them with information. Among respondents in Latin America, 82 percent subscribed to that statement, as did 72 percent of those in North America. In Europe, though, just 50 percent of respondents endorsed that view.
The survey also detected regional variation in the degree to which consumers trust various forms of advertising. TV advertising is a conspicuous example. On average, 62 percent of global respondents said they trust TV advertising at least "somewhat." But the figure ranged from 74 percent in Latin America down to 49 percent in Europe, with North America splitting the difference, at 61 percent.
The regional pattern was similar when the survey measured trust in online advertising. Among respondents in Latin America, 53 percent said they trust that sort of advertising at least somewhat, as did 42 percent in North America and 36 percent in Europe. As for newspaper advertising, 75 percent in Latin America said they trust it at least somewhat, vs. 66 percent in North America and 50 percent in Europe.
The survey's global findings belied the notion that consumers trust advertising in traditional media more than ads in new media—or vice versa. Brands' Web sites outscored other ad media in the numbers of respondents saying they trust them "completely" (13 percent) or "somewhat" (57 percent). On the other hand, text ads on mobile phones were at the very bottom of the trust rankings, with just 2 percent saying they trust these completely and 22 percent saying they trust them somewhat.
And there was a lackluster rating for "ads served in search-engine results," with 4 percent trusting these completely and 37 percent somewhat. Ratings for old media were closely bunched, with TV getting a typical rating for these of 8 percent "trust completely" and 53 percent "trust somewhat."
You'd expect the economic turmoil of the past year to have eroded consumer trust in markets and marketing. As such, there's a counterintuitive aspect to the findings that trust in advertising of all sorts of media was higher in the new survey than it was in a similar 2007 sounding. For instance, the proportion of respondents saying they trust brand Web sites at least somewhat rose from 60 percent in 2007 to 70 percent this time around. There was a particularly large gain for "ads before movies"—from 38 percent then to 52 percent now—which suggests that objections to such ads are fading as people become more accustomed to them.