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AdWeek Europe: Declining Trust In Advertising Creates Opportunities For Brands To Be Authentic

Trust is in decline; trust in institutions, trust in advertising. But while this is causing problems for some companies and industries, it’s an opportunity for those brands that are authentic and stand for something in consumers’ eyes.

Those were some of the conclusions from the Advertising Week Europe session Trust: Digital’s New Currency. Richard Eyre, chairman of the IAB UK, started from the position that “being trusted is the most important thing for any brand.”

“The Edelman barometer shows trust in institutions is in decline. Trust in advertising is also in decline, and one of the drivers of that is what’s happening online. It’s a tragedy. What I thought was the greatest dividend of online marketing–the ability to target–is now seen as creepy.”

But Eyre also argued that brands can take advantage of this atmosphere of diminishing trust.

“Brands can get ahead of their competitors by building trust, by having clear values and doing what they say they’ll do.”

Alam Clyne, head of digital EMEA at PR agency Weber Shandwick, agreed with Eyre.

“Brands that have meaning attached will outperform the competition,” he said. “Trust can create ROI, but it’s a less tactical approach. You have to be prepared to see it through.”

Moderator Ronald Urbach, chairman of New York law firm Davis & Gilbert, asked whether the problem of trust in advertising was one of the industry’s own making, through its approach to collecting and using consumers’ data.

This suggestion was denied by Matt McAllester, european editor of Newsweek.

“You can’t un-invent the internet. You can’t un-invent the gathering of big data,” he said. “It’s not accurate to lay the blame for the problem at the feet of the advertising industry, but the tools are getting more and more powerful and there is a great responsibility in how you use them, and that’s a challenge.”

Justin Cochrane, CEO UK of outdoor media owner Clear Channel, argued that advertisers have to respect the value exchange between themselves and consumers over data.

“Brands have got to be more open and make it a two-way transaction,” he said.

Urbach also asked how younger people’s attitudes to trust differed.

“There’s pressure from consumers to get this right, and also from employees, especially millennials,” Eyre said. “I think that’s a really positive force.”

“There’s a pent-up desire among employees to be authentic, but you’ve got to give them the tools,” said Phil Stokes, partner, entertainment & media industry, PwC EMEA.

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