Can advertising win back our trust?

Who are you more likely to believe, an ad agency or a used car salesman? As trust in the industry plummets to an all-time low, we ask if there’s a way to repair our fractious relationship with advertising

Do we trust advertising? The answer isn’t a simple yes or no, but there’s no doubt our faith has been shaken. A 2019 report by the Advertising Association highlighted that public trust has been in long-term ­decline since the early 90s, with advertising now considered below the trust levels of energy suppliers and banking.

Undoubtedly, we’ve wised up to its tricks. Most of us know that advertising is only ever going to show us the most polished version of the truth, which means there’s a certain amount of automatic screening that goes on when we see ads.

“The best illustration of this is the burger you get versus the picture behind the counter,” says Ben Kay, CR columnist and founder and creative director at ethical ad agency Invincible Unicorn. “That’s the burger on its very, very best day, shot by a good photographer. It looks mouth-watering, but then you get something that looks like someone trod on it. That’s the difference between advertising and reality, and we all know it – even if no one says it out loud.”


Milton Keynes