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Do you trust adverts?

It may not exactly be front-page news, but there are some interesting nuggets in polling from an American market research company, which highlights how little consumers believe what they are told by advertising.

A couple of notes of caution: the sample size is only 500 and it’s based in America where the first amendment means there is virtually no regulation of what advertisers can say. In fact Lab 42, the company behind the survey were moved to ask the question after reading about the banning by our Advertising Standards Authority of a make up ad in the UK.

The survey is not great news for advertisers.

Lab 42 found that only 3% of its respondents found the claims in advertising to be ‘very accurate’ while 19% found them ‘very exaggerated’ and 57% ‘somewhat exaggerated’.

And, consumers know the tricks too. Photoshop is fingered by consumers for sprucing up ads for cleaning products (87% think the majority are doctored), shampoos (80%) and weight loss (96%). The vast majority of all consumers think beauty ads are exaggerated and of the tiny number of those who do think they are ‘very accurate’ the vast majority are men.

That’s reflected in the largest proportion of consumers – 32% - who think they ‘know what ads are trying to do’.

However, there is some good news for advertisers because, strangely, despite all this cynicism 31% of consumers like to decide what to buy based on advertising compared to the 21% who refuse to make their decisions based on advertising.

But if you’re a new product then advertising may not be for you if these figures are to be believed. The top products which people chose based on advertising were overwhelmingly established brands – Coke and Pepsi are up there – and the top reason given for choosing a product based on advertising was that the consumer recognised the brand. When it comes to social media, only 3% of respondents said that a sponsored message had persuaded them to try a new product.

What works well won’t come as too much of a surprise. Funny sells, particularly to women: 71% of the sample said funny ads were remembered and of these 59% were women. An educational message is the next best connecter and the third was sexy – 92% of those who chose this were, would you credit it, men!

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