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Nielsen: Earned Advertising Remains Most Credible Among Consumers

4 minute read | September 2013

Eighty-four percent of consumers around the world say they trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family, a form of earned media , above all other sources of advertising, according to a new study from Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and insights into what consumers watch and buy.

Owned advertising , in the form of content and messaging on brand websites, was the second most-trusted advertising source in 2013, with 69 percent of global respondents indicating they trust this platform. What forms of advertisement Taiwanese online consumers trust the most? Recommendations from friends and family ranked first (86%), followed by consumer opinions posted online (72%) and editorial content (67%). Branded websites (65%) and emails consumers signed up for (60%) ranked 4th and 5th. 

“Brand marketers should be especially encouraged to find owned advertising among the most-trusted marketing formats,” said Irene Chen, Senior Director, Media Research, Nielsen Taiwan. “This emphasizes the notion that marketers maintain the ability to control the messages about their brands in a way that consumers consider credible. This perceived credibility is a key component in advertising effectiveness.”

Nielsen’s Global Survey of Trust in Advertising polled more than 29,000 Internet respondents in 58 countries to measure consumer sentiment on 19 forms of paid , earned and owned advertising formats. Sixty-eight percent of global respondents indicated that they trust consumer opinions posted online, which ranked third in 2013.

Trust in Traditional Advertising Still Strong

Nielsen’s information shows that ads on television (62%) and in newspapers (61%) and in magazines (60%) continue to be among the most trusted forms of paid advertising. Although global ad spend grew a marginal 1.9 percent in the first quarter of 2013, traditional paid media continues to own the majority share of spend, with TV in the top spot owning 59 percent, according to Nielsen’s most recent Global AdView Pulse.

Trust in Online and Mobile Ads

More than half (56%) of respondents said they trust consumer-consented email messages. For other online advertising, almost half (48%) trusted ads in search engine results, online video ads and ads on social networks. More than four in 10 (42%) trusted online banner ad. Forty-five percent of respondents in Nielsen’s 2013 survey believed display ads on mobile phones were credible and 37 percent trusted text ads on mobile phones.

“Increases in the trust of paid online and mobile advertising demonstrate the growing importance of these formats,” said Chen. “With Internet ad spending reporting double-digit growth, advertisers are exhibiting growing confidence in these formats—or at least a willingness to make an investment. While companies may be unable to directly control the messages in earned media, such as consumer opinions posted online, they have the ability to create a positive presence for their brands on these channels.”

Trust Can Impact Consumer Action

Word-of-mouth formats, such as recommendations from family and friends and consumer opinions posted online, prompted the highest levels of action, among 84 percent and 70 percent of respondents, respectively.

Roughly two-thirds of respondents indicated that they take action at least some of the time based on ads shown on TV (68%), branded websites (67%), ads in newspapers (65%), consumer-consented emails (65%), editorial content in newspapers (64%), and ads in magazines (62%).

According to Nielsen, approximately half of respondents said they were willing to take action at least some of the time based on social network ads (55%), online video ads (52%), online banner ads (50%), display ads on mobile devices (49%), and text ads on mobile phones (45%).

“Although online formats have the opportunity to engage more effectively with consumers, trust in these ads is growing as they become more pervasive and persuasive with creative that is provocative, smart and challenges the status quo,” said Chen. “And customers are responding, as the findings show about half of respondents are taking action based on online ads. A customer’s willingness to take action on an ad is a brand marketer’s currency. While trust and action generally go hand in hand, Nielsen research shows that even ad formats that are developing can be effective in getting consumers to the point of sale.”

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising was conducted between February 18 and March 8, 2013, and polled more than 29,000 consumers in 58 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America. The sample has quotas based on age and sex for each country based on their Internet users, and is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers and has a maximum margin of error of ±0.6%. This Nielsen survey is based on the behavior of respondents with online access only. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60 percent Internet penetration or 10M online population for survey inclusion. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Survey, was established in 2005.

About Nielsen

Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit