I’m a great believer in the value of research, but I’m dismayed by the frequency with which findings are distorted in order to endorse or support a particular agenda.
As I’ve noted before,
“Torture numbers and they’ll tell you anything.*”
So it was with interest that I read this headline in MediaWeek:
“Survey: Consumers Don’t Hate Ads”
After reading the article, I dug a little deeper into the source material – the recently published “Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey: Trust, Value and Engagement in Advertising.”
It’s full of great data, and I’ve been looking forward to this latest iteration of the bi-annual survey.
However, there are two areas in this year’s report that disturbed me.
The first is the conclusion that inspired the MediaWeek headline:
“Consumer perceptions on the value of advertising
are generally positive.”
Let’s look at the data that ‘support’ that conclusion [click the image to enlarge]:
[image from Nielsen's report]
You’ll notice that these statements are framed as ‘facts’.
But when the report draws its conclusions on these findings, it states:
“We asked if advertising…
- increases value for consumers (through competition);
- promotes consumer choice (helping consumers exercise their right to choose)
- powers economic growth (by helping companies succeed)
- creates jobs (through economic growth and as an industry in itself);
- is the lifeblood of media (funding a diverse, pluralistic media landscape);
- funds sports and culture (through sponsorship);
- helps make a difference (through public service advertisements);
- often gets my attention and is entertaining.”
These ‘questions’ are quite different to the statements in the chart above.
So, do the data really show that “consumer perceptions on the value of advertising are generally positive”?
I’m not convinced.
My second issue relates to a regular concern [again, click the image to enlarge]:
[image from Nielsen's report]
You probably know what’s coming…
“Peer recommendation is the most trusted [advertising] channel, trusted “completely” or “somewhat” by 9 out of 10 respondents worldwide.”
I’ve talked about this before.
‘Peer Recommendation’ / ‘WOM’ / ‘Consumer Opinions Posted Online’ / ‘Editorial Content’ are not advertising channels.
Rather, they are all consequences of other marketing activities.
People trust them precisely because they’re not advertising.
In their true form, they’re unbiased, and that’s what makes them persuasive and trustworthy.
Sure, brands have tried to hijack them and use them as channels, but that invariably generates mistrust rather than trust, as evidenced here.
I don’t dispute the value of word of mouth, but we need to accept that it’s not advertising; brands cannot ‘buy’ these ‘channels’ any more than they can ‘buy’ sales.
Having raised these two concerns though, I fully encourage you to download a copy of Nielsen’s report and study the numbers for yourself.
So long as you approach them with an open mind and an unbiased agenda, you’ll find them highly informative and very useful.
[As a side note, perhaps we should see the report's conclusions in the context of this post]
*Thanks again to Kelvin for this wonderful quote.