According to a newly released survey by YouGov, only 3 percent of Americans completely trust the ads they see, read, or hear, with 11 percent not trusting them at all. In fact, among American adults exposed to advertising at least once a month, 37 percent find those ads to be fairly dishonest and 7 percent rate them as very dishonest. A whopping 50 percent of those surveyed simply don’t trust those advertisements whatsoever. The product types that are the worst offenders in terms of trustworthiness include diet products, financial and/or insurance products and services, and pharmaceutical products. Those that get the most trust across the board are casual dining restaurants (not fast food) and clothing stores.

While these metrics were fairly consistent across demographics, there were some exceptions. Most notably, among African American participants, there was a much higher level of trust overall, with only 31 percent believing that advertisements are dishonest and, likewise, only 31 percent not trusting them. In addition, men were more likely to distrust ads than women (53 percent versus 47 percent), while 53 percent of those in younger generations (18 to 34 years olds) distrusted ads compared to 42 percent of 35 to 54 year olds.

The survey revealed that another factor that significantly impacted distrust for advertising was education. In fact, those with a post-graduate degree distrusted ads at a rate of 65 percent, whereas only 44 percent of those with only a high school diploma cited distrust.

So where are ads going wrong? According to the study, frequently used advertising tactics are not that effective. For instance, in ads where the product is compared to that of a named competitor, only 15 percent are more likely to believe those claims, while 26 percent report being less likely. A similar result is seen when expert testimonials are incorporated into the ad, with only 16 percent being more likely to believe those claims and 29 percent being less likely to. Mentioning awards won by the product or service seems to have no impact whatsoever (with 20 percent more likely to believe the claim and 22 percent being less likely to trust the ad).In addition, only 1 in 8 respondents overall feel that the current requirements for proving ad claims are adequate, with 58 percent believing there should be stronger claims.

This survey canvassed 987 U.S. adults who reported being exposed to at least one form of advertising on a monthly basis. Ads include commercials on television and on the radio, as well as ads seen in newspapers, magazines, and online.


Marketing Charts. “Half of Americans Don’t Trust the Ads They’re Exposed To.” 4/15/14.