Lack of trust: The dark side of social media

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Social media platforms are still not trusted content spaces. According to the CMO Council Survey of 2,000 adult consumers in the U.S., Canada and U.K. despite listing social media as the source of the second-highest volume of ad messages they receive—behind only television—consumers ranked social media last among their five most trusted channels. They ranked friends, TV, search engines and newspapers as more trusted sources.

A large majority of consumers said they responded differently to the same ad, depending on its context, with 63 percent saying they responded more positively to ads run in trusted media channels.

Consumers are, in fact, turning to trusted content providers and media to escape objectionable content. Some 60 per cent said offensive context has already caused them to consume more content from trusted, well-known news sources and established media channels.

“CMOs and brand advertisers are increasingly concerned about various aspects of digital and programmatic advertising, including concerns about their ads showing up next to offensive content,” said Donovan Neale-May, Executive Director of the CMO Council.

“This consumer survey demonstrates that those concerns are well founded. Advertising placed next to objectionable content is damaging to a brand while ads that accompany more trusted content and media are more accepted.”

While other brand safety studies have explored adverse brand perceptions, the CMO Council research asked consumers about their response to the experience of finding brand ads in proximity to objectionable content or fake news sites—and their warning to advertisers was brutal.

Some 37 per cent of consumers said it would change the way they think of a brand when making a decision to buy. Another 11 per cent said they would flat-out not do business with that brand. Another 9 percent said they would become vocal critics of the brand.

Another consumer response is the increased use of ad blockers. In another alarming finding for digital marketers, more than 50 percent of respondents said they either already had or planned to install some form of ad-blocking software to their mobile devices or PC browsers.

Other key insights from the CMO Council survey include:

– A surprising 86 percent of consumers are either extremely concerned, very concerned or moderately worried about how easily they are directed or redirected to hateful or offensive content.

– The most annoying digital advertising formats, even when appearing on trusted media channels, were intrusive pop-up ads (22 per cent) and auto-playing video ads (17 per cent).

– Attention to digital advertising overall was notably low, with only 14 per cent always engaged and 58 per cent saying they pay attention only when ads either interest them or are really interesting.

– Just over 40 per cent of consumers have already installed ad-blocking software on their devices while another 14 per cent said they planned to add these features.

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