April 12th, 2012 by Judith Aquino

Chalk up another win for online advertising and word-of-mouth recommendations: according to a Nielsen survey released Tuesday, consumers say they place the most trust in recommendations from friends and family and are warming up to digital ads. Consumer trust in TV and print ads, however, continues to drop.

In a global survey of more than 28,000 Internet users, 92 percent of the respondents said they trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising—an increase of 18 percent since 2007. Online consumer reviews came in second with 70 percent indicating they trust this platform, an increase of 15 percent in four years.

In contrast, nearly half of the respondents (47 percent) told Nielsen they believe what they see on paid television, magazine, and newspaper ads—a decline of more than 20 percent since 2009.

Even fewer consumers said they trust online ads, although their trust in digital advertising is growing.

One out of three respondents said that they believe the messages they see in online banner ads, which was up 26 percent from 2007. Search ads saw a six percent increase from 2007, as 40 percent of online consumers said they trust them. For mobile ads, nearly 33 percent indicated that they trust mobile banner ads and 29 percent trust mobile phone text ads.

Interestingly, a higher percentage of respondents (50 percent) found TV ads to be personally relevant, compared to online banners ads (33 percent), ads on social networks (36 percent) and online video ads (36 percent). It is not indicated if any of the online ads included targeted messages.

The key take away from this survey is that paid advertising—whether digital or traditional—might never catch up with word-of-mouth recommendations. Marketers, therefore, would be smart to focus on making it as easy as possible for their customers to spread the word about what they like about their products.

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