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People Trust Strangers Before Online Adverts

Recommendations by friends and opinions posted by consumers online are the most trusted forms of purchase influence globally, according to the latest Nielsen market study.

The Nielsen survey, the largest of its kind, shows that nine in every ten Internet consumers worldwide (90 percent) trust recommendations from people they know, while seven in every ten (70 percent) trust total stranger opinions posted online.

However, in this new age of consumer influence, advertisers may be encouraged by the fact that brand websites -- the most trusted form of advertising -- are trusted by as many people (70 percent) as consumer opinions posted online.

"The explosion in consumer-generated media (CGM) over the last couple of years means consumer's reliance on word-of-mouth in the decision-making process, either from people they know or online consumers they don't, has increased significantly," says Jonathan Carson, at Nielsen.

The Trust in Advertising element of the survey was first conducted in April 2007 and the two years since then reveals that brand sponsorship has seen the greatest increase in levels of trust from 49 percent of Internet consumers in April 2007 to 64 percent in April 2009 -- an absolute increase of 15 percentage points.

Brand sponsorships are closely followed by ads before movies which have increased from 38 percent to 52 percent -- a 14 percentage point increase -- and personal recommendations which have increased by 12 percent from 78 percent in April 2007 to 90 percent in April 2009.

Consumer opinions posted online tend to be trusted most by Vietnamese Internet consumers (81 percent) and their Italian (80 percent), Chinese and French (both 77 percent) counterparts.

However, online opinions tend to be trusted the least in Argentina (46 percent) and Finland (50 percent). In comparison, 72 percent of U.S. Internet consumers trust this form of advertising -- meaning the U.S. ranks 12 out of the 50 countries represented in the survey for trusting consumer opinions online.

When it comes to trusting brand sponsorships, Latin American countries lead the way with 81 percent of both Colombian and Venezuelan Internet consumers and 79 percent of Brazilians trusting this form of advertising.

In contrast, sponsorships hold the least sway amongst Swedish (33 percent), Latvian (36 percent) and Finnish online consumers (38 percent). In comparison, 62 percent of U.S. Internet consumers trust brand sponsorships, placing the U.S. 21 out of the 50 countries surveyed.

Brand websites, globally the most trusted form of advertiser-led advertising, hold the greatest sway in China (82 percent). Following China are Pakistan (81 percent) and Vietnam (80 percent).

However, brand websites tend to be trusted least amongst Swedish (40 percent) and Israeli (45 percent) Internet consumers. The U.S. ranks 22 amongst the countries surveyed with 70 percent of U.S. Internet consumers trusting brand websites.

Although brand websites score highly amongst Internet consumers, the survey shows that other forms of digital advertising are trusted less than ads appearing in traditional media such as TV billboards, radio, magazines and newspapers -- despite the latter being the only form of advertising to experience a drop in levels of trust since the 2007 survey.

Text ads on mobile phones (24 percent), online banner ads (33 percent), online video ads (37 percent) and ads in search engine results (41 percent) are the forms of advertising least likely to elicit a degree of trust.

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