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Advertisers have faced many challenges in getting their ads across to millennial audiences who are a great deal less trusting than previous generations. Their trust levels are very low in regard to brands and organizations. Recently, Kent Grayson, a professor at Northwestern University performed a recent study about consumer skepticism, which quite frankly left him skeptical.
He performed several more studies and on each occasion, the members of each study were asked what they assumed regarding recent advertising techniques. Their answers ranged from good to fair to credible.
Another study performed by Professor Grayson, along with Matthew Isaac, was published in the Journal of Consumer Research in April. His team surveyed 400 consumers on the subject of 20 common tactics used in ads for both television and digital media. Thirteen of the 20 tactics were considered favorable which even surprised marketer such as Christian Dove, founder and chief executive of SynergyFX who somewhat sarcastically wondered aloud: “You have to wonder where they found those consumers?”
The mindset of younger audiences is the reason Mr. Grayson felt he needed to probe even more deeply into his research last year. Even though he was hearing audiences saying they do not trust advertising, he commented, “The truth is, there is a lot of advertising that they do trust.”
Paid Vs. Real
Other findings showed that using paid actors vs real people or participating celebrity endorsers who favor a given product are perceived as deceptive or manipulative in regard to the viewing audience.
In January, an essay for AdWeek argued that the “atmosphere of disbelief” in advertising and brands have permeated society. This argument clearly points out that brands need to improve their platforms to bridge the gaps, communicate, and inspire people.
Today’s audience is a great deal more sophisticated than previous generations. They “know how the machine works”. They are fully aware why Facebook ads are re-targeted based on previous searches. Consumers are also aware why brands buy space on certain programs. If a television station shows cartoons, ads target children. If a station shows reruns of show 30 to 40 years ago, pharmaceuticals clamber to convince viewers they have some rare disease due to their age. The mystique is gone.
Joe Manausa MBA, CEO of Manausa, is witnessing more brands evolving and communicating in a more engaging sense. Their focus is turning to consumers and therefore communicating and becoming more personable. Mr. Manausa has been advising his clients to start selling the value of their brands in order to connect with their buyers.
Advertising agencies have agreed that it’s time for companies to establish authenticity which will take time but it’s critical. Various researchers believe that advertising is not breaking consumers down into age groups but those studies did not focus on various strategies such as television, print, or digital marketing platforms. But, many studies have shown that there are still far too many marketers that are still trying to deceive the public.
Mr. Grayson believes that these marketers are willing to try just about anything to cheat consumers. This has been shown in certain foods such a cereal. The manufacturers keep prices the same but there is less content in the box.
One Big Concern
Many researchers such as Grayson realize they need to stay on top of their studies when evaluating the consumer and manufacturer relationship. One big concern they have is disreputable and manipulative practices are becoming commonly accepted in society. Even if many consumers believe they are constantly being tricked.
Are marketers and ad agencies attempting to connect with the customers or are they still offering smoke and mirrors edging on deception? The jury is still out whether they are credible or not. There are good ads that have been on the market for some time now that seem to get their messages across, entice consumers but strive to stay away from talking down to them.
There are still many large corporations and manufacturers who believe they have products and services that consumers need and are in high demand. Therefore, their advertising will continue in a manner they see fit. That said, marketers should be a little wary, consumers are becoming more aware of tactics and are not willing to part with their money if they cannot feel a certain trust.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.