How do Consumers Engage with and Trust Social Media Advertising in the UK?

The pandemic has changed the way consumers all over the world consume and engage with information. Many traditional media channels have been replaced by digital mediums like websites, podcasts, social media and YouTube channels. The global lockdowns have led to more consumers turning to the internet and digital media for faster and more relevant global data. Additionally, these lockdowns have also dramatically changed people’s behaviour across the world and are likely to affect the way they consume media in the future.

A global study by found that people in the UK tend to trust ads on TV (53%) and radio (53%) the most, followed by other types of traditional media like print (42%), cinemas (38%) and billboards (38%). They are less likely to trust ads on various newer mediums such as websites (18%) and social media (10%) to be reliable. Of all the countries included in this study, the UK was found to be the most cynical globally and lacked trust in social media.

One of the main reasons behind this lack of trust in digital was the privacy concerns raised by scandals such as Cambridge Analytica. They feel that tailored content from brands compromises their privacy and they did not feel it was acceptable to be targeted by brands, especially across the various digital platforms. Only 43% of Brits said they would prefer to see ads that were relevant to their interests and needs, as opposed to 54% of people globally.

Of UK consumers, 35% felt strongly that any kind of paid promotion by brands on social media channels should be highlighted in some way. If these concerns are not dealt with in the right manner, it could lead to trouble for the influencer marketing and social media advertising industries.

Rebuilding Consumer Trust in the UK

Based on the revelations from the study, it is clear that the industry needs to take steps towards rebuilding the trust of consumers in the UK in order for the advantage of social media to remain relevant. The industry needs to work together towards building consumer trust.
Clear and unified guidelines on collecting and using consumer data should be agreed upon by the industry to reinstate and further build consumer trust.

Advertisers should also  be extra careful about the visuals and messages their advertising content gives to their audience, especially during difficult times like these. The focus should be on creating transparency in the industry.

In a previous study carried out by the UK Advertising Association (AA) in 2019, it was found that the public preference for advertising had dropped from 48% to 25% in 1992. The reason for this drastic change was the fact that respondents felt bombarded with often-repetitive advertising that disrupted user experience in the case of online ads. Some felt that ads were not creative enough and contained bad humour and irritating jingles.

In order to solve these matters, the AA has been working on a five-point plan to address the issue head on and help build trust among consumers. This plan includes developing best practice around data privacy and demonstrating how brands can drive societal change.

It is important for the advertising and media industries to work together to help facilitate this change. They need to operate together to drive change and ensure that consumers receive relevant and accurate content across all platforms. If the sector works together to build transparency, consistency and authenticity, customer trust can be regained and engagement can be rebuilt.

Global Trust in Social Media Advertising

According to YouGov’s International Media Consumption Report 2021, high number of users in countries like India, Indonesia, China, UAE and Mexico said that they interacted more with social media ads since the pandemic began. On the other hand, in countries like UK, US, Poland, France, Germany, Denmark and Australia, users were more likely to disagree that they’ve been engaging in social media ads more since the pandemic began. Globally, 30% of consumers agreed that they paid more attention and engaged more with social media ads during the pandemic, due to the lockdowns and public restrictions.