Digital is the least trusted media channel among consumers, says new survey

It isn’t just marketers who are losing trust in digital advertising channels, with a new study suggesting consumers also have concerns.


Almost three-quarters (63%) of consumers would respond more positively to a social media ad if it appeared on a more traditional advertising channel, according to a new report from the CMO Council.

Having surveyed 2,000 adults across the UK, US and Canada, it found that despite delivering the second highest volume of advertising messages, social media platforms were the least trusted by consumers among the top five media channels.

And although the study is just a snapshot, marketers might still feel alarm with just over 40% of those polled revealing they already have ad blocking software installed on their devices. Another 14% plan to add an ad blocker to their devices in the near future.

A big reason behind the social media dismay, the research claims, is a lack of trust and the rise of objectionable content. Some 60% of consumers state that offensive content appearing on the likes of Facebook and Twitter had already caused them to “consume more content from trusted, well-known news sources and established media channels”.

Following an investigation by The Times that revealed ads being placed next to extremist content on sites such as YouTube, the public concerns expressed by marketers such as P&G’s Marc Pritchard have been hard to avoid.

However, according to the CMO Council study, the concerns of marketers are being shared by consumers. In fact, 48% will abandon even brands that they love, should they see their ads appear next to ‘objectionable’ online content or on fake news sites.

And some 37% of consumers say this would “change the way [they] think of a brand when making a decision to buy”. Another 11% would flat-out “not do business with that brand” while 9% say they would become vocal critics of the brand.

“CMOs and brand advertisers are increasingly concerned about various aspects of digital and programmatic advertising, including concerns about their ads showing up next to offensive content,” says Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council.

“This consumer survey demonstrates that those concerns are well founded. Advertising placed next to objectionable content is damaging to a brand, while ads that accompany more trusted content and media are more accepted.”

Hide Comments2 Show Comments
  • Simon Jones 13 Jun 2017 at 8:42 am

    Perhaps this will help CMO’s and brand advertisers wake up and realise that digital is a means to creating trusted, direct connections with their consumers and it’s easy to do when you put billions of your own potential digital media channels into market every day. The reality for most is that digital stops at social – where the context of the content at engagement cannot be controlled (at least by the brand) and at best is dis-intermediated.

  • Chris Arnold 6 Jul 2017 at 12:14 am

    I am not surprised that ads in a social media environment are distrusted. They aren’t liked either.
    First, they shouldn’t be there, it’s an invasion of social space. You need to be invited not invade.
    Second, 90% are terrible. The quality of thinking and creativity in digital ads and social media ads and messaging is amateur at best. Even the IAB have apologised for poor quality leading to the rise of Adblockers. I blame brands and agencies for employing inexperienced kids, thinking because they are digital natives they know how to write a digital ad. I watch a lot of movies but I couldn’t write one. My uncle watches a lot of football but he only has one leg…
    Third, the media companies saturate any digital channel with ads, most misplaced and irrelevant. Pre-roll being one of the worst.
    Overall, the digital and social media marketing need to raise their game, improve their creativity and be more responsible.

  • Post a comment

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here