Addressing the Trust Deficit in Advertising

September 17, 2012

Consumers increasing lack of trust doesn’t begin and end with government and other large public and private institutions. It applies to advertising as well. This should hardly be a surprise to anyone. Who trusts ads anyway?

What’s surprising is that advertising continues to work as well as it does when the majority of consumers say they “don’t trust (advertising) much or at all.” This is, no doubt, due to the creative power of great advertising—its ability to entertain as well as sell. Advertising works despite itself.

Trust in Advertising – Paid, Owned and Earned

In a recent Nielsen global study (disclosure: I work at Nielsen), all forms of paid advertising—TV, Print, Digital, Radio, etc., fared poorly on the trust factor. Conversely, and not surprisingly, “recommendations from people I know” scored highest on trust, with 92% of consumers trusting this source completely or somewhat. Owned media, such as brand websites, scored higher than paid advertising, but lower than social recommendations.

Trust In Advertising

Now What ? The Convergence of Paid, Owned and Earned

Now that we’ve demonstrated what many of us already knew, what should we do about it? Does trust in advertising even matter? If so, can we even do anything about it?  After all, the only advertising that most CMO’s control is their own (and some Ad Agency people would even debate that).

Since trust is a continuum , moving from earned (highest) to owned and then paid (lowest), it stands to reason that brands should want more earned and owned media. But giving up paid media? For most brands, this isn’t really feasible given both the broad reach and historical success associated with paid media.

Instead, we need to start thinking of how Paid, Owned and Earned media can work together to improve trust and deliver better results. Marketers continue to discuss them as if they are separate and discreet media. They’re increasingly not.

Technology is blurring the lines of paid, owned and earned media.  Paid media can now also be social. Social is often about paid. Owned media can have paid embedded in it. And sometimes, all three can exist in one consumer touchpoint. What’s a CMO to make of this trend?

3 Examples of Paid, Owned, Earned Convergence

1.       Paid Ads Work Harder with Social

What actually happens when you combine social and paid advertising? Research on Facebook ads with and without a social layer (Jimmy, Billy and 8 other friends are fans of Brand X), shows that social ads generate much stronger breakthrough and purchase intent than ads without a social layer. Why? Knowing that the advertised brand is liked by our friends builds trust.

Paid Advertising Works Harder with a Social Layer

2.       Paid Digital Advertising Drives “Owned Media” Usage

Digital advertising can drive consumers to a Brand’s owned media. In the example below, we look at the effectiveness of four different brands digital advertising in driving consumers to their respective web sites. Brands A & B were far more successful in doing so than Brands C & D.

Brand A

   Brand B

   Brand C

Brand D

% of those exposedto the online display campaign that went on to visit a brand’s site post-exposure 





% of those not exposedto the online display advertising who visited a brand’s site 





3.       Owned Can Work Harder Than “Paid Media”

What about owned media? Does it work once consumers arrive? One way of understanding this is to measure the off-line sales impact of those consumers exposed versus not exposed to your brand’s website. In the example below, we can see that exposure to Brand X’s owned digital media drove almost 3x the sales lift of paid digital ads alone.

Owned Media Can Work Harder than Paid

The Opportunity – Putting it All Together

Addressing the truth deficit in advertising is more than just making ads that are, well, true. It’s also about how to use paid, owned and earned media to your brand’s advantage.

Using the example above, why not build social into your paid advertising (where possible), use your paid ads to drive consumers to your website, and optimize your site to drive maximum on or off-line purchase? Why not experiment with the myriad of ways to engage your consumers across the paid, owned and earned continuum?

Because I’m betting that overcoming the trust deficit in advertising isn’t about making ads that aren’t misleading or exaggerated. It’s about adding in social and owned media experiences in ways that gives paid media more legitimacy and enables it to work harder for your brand.

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Guest Post: Five Myths Marketers Believe About Presentations

November 15, 2010

This post is part of a continuing series of guest posts. Diane DiResta is CEO of DiResta Communications, Inc., a New York City consultancy serving business leaders who want to communicate with greater impact.


Having coached a number of marketers on their presentations, it’s come to my attention that when delivering presentations even the most creative marketing professionals may be sabotaging their success. The reason many marketing ideas are rejected by management is not because of the quality of the idea. It’s more often because of the way the idea is presented.

Five Myths Marketers Believe About Presentations


Here are five presentation myths that marketers need to dispel:

1. It’s about the numbers. I’ve seen marketing clients who believe that if the numbers back up their idea, it will sell. Nothing could be further from the truth. Marketers fall in love with the numbers and make this the focal point of the presentation. Then they’re shocked when senior management isn’t excited about their new product launch.

Reality: It’s passion that sells. I had one client who was shot down after presenting a new product. The reason was not because it wasn’t a good product. It was because it wasn’t a compelling presentation. The feedback her manager gave me was that she presented the facts but there was no enthusiasm. Tell the story behind the numbers. Senior management needs to be sold in the same way the consumer needs to be sold.

Marketers, Take Note: Passion Sells


2. Defend your position. One client got into hot water because of a need to defend his idea. When you’re wedded to your way of thinking you can alienate your boss and your supporters.

Reality:  Defending a position may actually backfire on you. Some marketers believe if it isn’t invented here, it doesn’t count. Being flexible and open to other ideas will up the ante on your presentation. Listening and questioning are the keys to success in selling your idea. If you don’t know the answer admit it and offer to get back to the questioner.  “Fake it til you make it” does not apply here. You’ll gain more credibility if you’re honest.

3. Tell them everything you know. Some marketers do a data dump, believing the listeners should be information rich.

Reality:   Good speaking like good marketing gets to the point. When pitching a product or concept if you give too many details, the listeners tune out.  Tell them what they need to know – not everything you know. When it comes to delivery, less is more.

Effective Public Speaking for Marketers


4. Keep Talking. Some marketers believe that by dominating the conversation they’ll push through their ideas. The squeaky wheel may get the grease but it won’t necessarily get you the business.

Reality: Know when to shut up. A running faucet will eventually flood a room. Don’t drown in your own verbiage. Come up for air. Master the pause.

5. The Company Knows Best. Departments  have their own culture. Expectations may range from using  a standard version of a PowerPoint template to having a tradition of all presenters being seated.

Reality: Tradition doesn’t have to reign. Breaking the rules can be used to your advantage. A text-only deck is not as impactful as slides that contain a few visuals. Just because presenters traditionally speak while seated in a boardroom, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stand. Effective presenters know how to stand out and blend in. You can respect company culture and also infuse your personal brand.

To give a good presentation remember the three  Cs – clear, concise, and compelling.


Diane DiResta is CEO of DiResta Communications, Inc., a New York City consultancy serving business leaders who want to communicate with greater impact — whether face-to-face, in front of a crowd or from an electronic platform.  DiResta is the author of Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz, an category best-seller and widely-used text in college business communication courses.

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The Double Edged Sword of Celebrity Endorsements

December 17, 2009

Pundits everywhere are speculating on the damage to the Tiger Woods brand. But what about the corporations and brands he pitches? CMO’s must always remember that celebrity endorsements are a “double edged sword” that carry both benefits and risks alike. 

Tiger Woods - What Impact on Sponsored Brands ?

I’ve written previously about the importance of Marketers contributing to corporate reputation efforts (Should Marketers Care About Corporate Reputation?), but the Tiger Woods story presents a new angle: how celebrities impact corporate and brand reputation. 

Celebrity Impact on Sponsored Brands

I was recently interviewed by Alex Witt on MSNBC about Tiger’s impact on his sponsored brands like Accenture, Cadillac, EA Video Games, Gatorade, Gillette, Nike, and others. We discussed  a range of topics and how Tiger has become a double-edged sword for sponsored brands: 

  • How does Tiger’s presence and performance affect PGA Tour TV ratings ? What impact will his absence have ?
  • What do we know about the effectiveness of ads which featured Tiger Woods versus those which didn’t ?
  • What impact has the late night talk show monologues, riffs, and skits had on Tiger’s sponsored brands ?

Clearly, Tiger Wood’s personal reputation has taken a crushing and perhaps irreversible dive. What about the brands that he represents? Learn more about the impact on his sponsors, as well as my own take on the issues, in Reuters, USA Today, BloombergThe New York Times, AdWeek, and BrandWeek, or watch my MSNBC interview with Alex Witt

Lessons For Marketers

There are three important Marketing lessons Marketers should take away from the Tiger Woods story: 

  1. Assume the Worst – CMO’s should assume that any celebrity they use in their Marketing, no matter how seemingly “pristine,” will have an issue at some point. And with the web’s ability to spread “spurned media” at an unprecedented rate, brand damage can be fast and severe.
  2. Diversify your Marketing Assets – Put simply, brands should use celebrity endorsements as one element of a multi-faceted Marketing program. Building your entire Marketing program around a single celebrity and related creative idea can put the brand at serious risk if problems arise.
  3. Have a Back-Up Plan – If disaster strikes,  brands must be prepared. What’s the plan to deal with any celebrity disaster fallout, including the digital trail of negative media that will live on for months and years on the web? And what’s the back-up Marketing plan?

It all reinforces an important, but oft forgotten point about the “double edged sword” of famous spokespeople:  brands can benefit from the association of a strong spokesperson brand–but face the constant risk of that reputation turning negative, no matter how unlikely it seems.  Accenture, Cadillac, EA Video Games, and others are relearning this lesson all over again while they recover from the collateral damage of a spokesperson gone awry. 

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Should Marketers Care About Corporate Reputation ?

September 8, 2009

It seems that everywhere you look these days, a great corporate icon’s reputation lays in ruin — General Motors, AIG, Citicorp — the list goes on and on. Yet many Marketers seem to be obsessed only with the latest Twitter app or new social media platform. To be sure, these are important and even epochal changes in the Marketing landscape, but where’s the sense of focus? Or, as I asked in a recent Forbes CMO Network Q&A column, is reputation management someone else’s responsibility?

GM -- Reputation Lost

GM -- Reputation Lost

Corporate Reputation — Not a Marketing Priority?

Company reputation often receives short shrift from Marketers and for good reason. It’s often seen as the purview of “corporate communications” — the people who manage challenging stakeholders like the media, NGO’s, Wall Street analysts and the like—as well as regular consumers. Thus, it’s seen as an important, but not high priority for many Marketing organizations.

This is a dangerous and narrow point of view for Marketers–particularly for single brand companies. Why? Because corporate reputation is often correlated with business results: stronger reputations equal better financial results. And corporate reputation is often driven by factors that Marketing can and should influence. So, Marketing needs to play a leading role along with Corporate Communications to deliver integrated plans that build brand equity, corporate reputation — and even better business results.

AIG -- Reputation in Tatters

AIG -- Reputation in Tatters

Corporate Reputation Does Not Equal Brand Equity

Historically, the Marketing function focus has been on brand equity — the key functional and emotional benefits the brand wants to “own” in consumers minds to differentiate it versus competition and drive consideration and purchase. Corporate reputation is broader than brand equity. It’s the measure of company attributes that add up to overall corporate image. Brand equity and corporate reputation are not the same thing, but they often do overlap and reinforce each other. Hence, a good reason for Marketing to care about corporate reputation. Most importantly, strong brand equity and corporate reputation both lead to improved business outcomes.

Defining the Drivers of Corporate Reputation

Good marketers use “drivers” research to quantify how various brand attributes impact overall brand image, and focus their marketing efforts accordingly. This discipline can also be applied to corporate reputation management. Company reputation drivers and their impact are often ill-defined. So, the foundational work of rebuilding corporation reputation is defining the reputation drivers and then quantifying their impact on overall corporate reputation.

Citi - Rebuilding Reputation: Where to Start ?

Citi - Rebuilding Reputation: Where to Start ?

Corporate Reputation Drivers – An Example

Here’s an example of what one large multinational company facing corporate reputation issues learned. First, they identified 25 reputation drivers via qualitative interviews with stakeholder groups. Second, quantitative research was conducted to understand the single variable impact of each driver in each group. Not surprisingly, the analysis showed that just 3 reputation drivers were having, by far, the most impact on corporate reputation.

  • Open & Transparent Communication – Research showed that this was a top factor driving corporate reputation—and had almost 10x the impact of most other factors. Stakeholders wanted the full picture—including what mistakes were made, why, what was learned, and most importantly what plans were in place to fix the problems so they would never happen again. For more on this topic, see my previous post: “Why Your Brand Needs to  be Open & Transparent.
  • Providing Good Value For Money – The second most important driver was how stakeholders perceived the products and services of the firm relative to cost. Understanding the importance of this led to additional research to more clearly define “good value for money” and how to deliver and communicate it more effectively to stakeholders.
  • Consistent & Stable Corporate Financial Performance – The company’s financial performance on average and over time was also a key driver. This is an “outcome” driver and one that only improves as the company actually turns words into deeds and delivers on its promised plans. But knowing its importance reinforced the need to communicate progress and results to stakeholders in a timely and comprehensive manner.

Stakeholder Tracking

Equally important to identifying and selecting the key reputation drivers is the continuous understanding of your stakeholder groups:

  • What are their most important issues and concerns?
  • What do they want to hear from senior management?

Stakeholder research helps you focus your messaging on the right topics, and tracking data shows whether your messages have been understood and internalized. What portion of key stakeholders are aware of your message? And do they really understand? Research is a critical step to “close the loop” and help you understand progress and make adjustments.

In the aftermath of the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression, Marketing has a new challenge – to help rebuild corporate reputation. CMO’s must think about their role more broadly than just building brand equity. They must work in partnership with Corporate Communications in a more systematic and disciplined manner to deliver what everyone should agree creates significant long term shareholder value–a strong brand and an improved corporate reputation.

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