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Deception and perception: brand survival in an era of untruth

By / / In Best practice /
We have grown used to exaggerated ad pitches from desperate salespeople, but now the web is beset by fake news, gathering click-throughs from intrigued viewers. Research from Rakuten shows us that brands that advertise on websites carrying fake content are suffering; their reputations tarnished. Can we save the web in this ‘era of untruth’?
diverse marketing brand survival

The double-glazing salesman had dropped a flyer through my very old, single-glazed and draughty front porch. A nice, classic example of direct mail, suitably targeted, I thought, reaching for the phone to arrange a personal visit and quote.

A few days later, he is tucking away his tape measure and telling me it will cost £9,000 to replace the porch, or £6,000 if I say ‘yes’ right now. This amazing discount is apparently due to time-constraints on recycling benefits.

Inflated estimates followed by knock-down offers are nothing new, but this salesman was clearly spinning me a line! His pitch was designed to hoodwink, bamboozle, pull the wool over . . . to get a result from what was a fabrication. Talk about ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’!

I was as mad as Mr Trump over the fakery and have been busy ever since, naming and shaming this glazing company, so I am now among the 65 million who post comments or opinions on review websites and forums each month.

But what is much, much worse than mere trumped-up local sales pitches is ‘fake news’ delivered across the internet; 21st century deception on a vast scale. Circulating on social media currently is a wild story about a baby surviving the London Grenfell Tower fire disaster – said to have been found alive 12 days after. Sadly, there was no such miracle. The story gathered plenty of interest and, when outted as fake, plenty of fury.brand survival

The tatoo ink post had been shared more than 300,000 times within three weeks when it was checked by Snopes and found to be mostly true – it was based on continuing scientific research, but has not yet been tested on humans. The restaurant chain quickly quashed the false claim that it was closing one of its branches – a ‘story’ which had been posted on a prankster website.

brand survivalThe fact is, fiction fascinates people; urban legends and old wives’ tales can be more interesting than reality. The myth-busting website is kept busy checking the facts behind stories, such as the ones pictured left.

But the rise of fake news on websites is giving brands advertising on those sites a really bad name (to say nothing about journalism and the slur under which genuine reporters, PRs and media communicators must now labour).

David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, took to the stage at Cannes Lions this June to discuss how brands can resonate as a trustworthy voice in the modern era of untruth, saying: “If we immerse ourselves in deception, sooner or later we lose.”

The increase of ‘misinformation’ even prompted the ‘father of the world wide web’ Sir Tim Berners-Lee to write an open letter earlier this year, marking the web’s 28th anniversary. In it he said it was too easy for misinformation to spread on the web: “Today, most people find news and information on the web through just a handful of social media sites and search engines. These sites make more money when we click on the links they show us . . . and through the use of data science and armies of bots, those with bad intentions can game the system to spread misinformation for financial or political gain.”

Negativity effect on perception and brand survival

Fresh research reveals that, globally, a majority of consumers associate online ads with fake news. That negativity is bad news for marketers, for brand survival and perception online – and for the web as a whole. The researcher, integrated marketing solutions provider Rakuten Marketing – finding that fake news, pop-up ads and pre-roll video spots tarnish consumer perceptions towards brands – is aiming to counter that growing discontent, embarking on mission to ‘Save The Web’. It is championing a campaign to change the mindset and put the ‘real’ back into the real world.

brand survival

The study of more than 2,500 consumers finds that British consumers are likely to associate ads with fake news – 71 per cent of them are distrustful – and 58 per cent of Americans are similarly wary.

According to the Rakuten report, Consumer Online Ad Sentiments: What Needs to Change About Online Advertising, most consumers believe online advertising has either remained static or actually become worse over time: 83% of global consumers say online advertising interrupts their online experience, particularly ads that pop-up and cover content, pre-roll video ads and ads that are delivered through push notifications.brand survival

The bad ad experience
brand survival

Almost a third, 32% of survey respondents, admit to using an ad blocker and 46% opt out of ads in other ways. Men are more likely than women to take proactive action to block an ad; they are 41% more likely to use an ad blocker, 16% more likely to opt out of ads and 17% more likely to clear their cookies.

Also, 43% of Americans report having had a bad experience with an online ad, as opposed to just 25% of UK consumers. Because of a bad ad experience, 45% of consumers will abandon a site and 28% will avoid the site altogether. 26% will clear their cookies to stop receiving ads from a brand and 19% will avoid brands they associate with bad advertising practices.

Tony Zito, CEO at Rakuten Marketing, said: “The findings from this research revealed important data on the current state of consumer sentiments about online advertising.

“Access to free content online is one of the most valuable propositions the internet offers, but the advertising that funds it needs to get better. At Rakuten Marketing, all the investments we make are towards better understanding the advertising that meaningfully influences consumers, so we can improve overall performance and solve this problem.”

But here is the good news:brand survival

The report also reveals that 70% of global consumers say advertising is OK when the ad content is useful to them; 65% say advertising can be valuable when it aligns with their interests and is more seamlessly integrated into online content.

And if advertising channels are personalised to a consumer’s likes, lifestyles and interests, so much the better – nearly a third (31%) of UK consumers actively follow an online blogger or social influencer and an impressive 84% will seek out coupon codes before making a purchase.

Help ‘save the web’

Rakuten Marketing’s leadership movement to Save the Web aims to promote greater transparency, create more meaningful consumer engagement, decrease ad blocking and increase revenue opportunities.

Zito said: “Through this initiative, Rakuten Marketing will help advertisers and publishers create positive ad experiences by providing insights, technology and strategies that better reflect the relationships consumers want to have with their brands.”

Follow the Save The Web campaign on Facebook to get ongoing updates, insights and news about consumers’ relationships with online advertising.

Have an opinion on this article? Please join in the discussion: the GMA is a community of data driven marketers and YOUR opinion counts.

Read also:

United Airlines – the data driven story and brand impact

Empathy, advocacy and social media: the importance of listening

Sally Hooton
Author: Sally Hooton
Editor at The GMA |

Trained as a journalist from the age of 18 and enjoying a long career in regional newspaper reporting and editing, Sally Hooton joined DMI (Direct Marketing International) magazine as editor in 2001. DMI then morphed into The GMA, taking her with it!

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