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If you lived in a village where people can directly speak to each other freely and exchange information and goods, what would  be the role of advertising ? It is quite likely an unfamiliar voice informing you of the virtues of this person or that product would be less trustworthy than the voice of a neighbour or a friend.

A new global study by Nielsen indicates that trust in advertising is fading. According to this study, people place the opinions of their friends highest in believability about a product while commercial sources rank lower. The Global Trust in Advertising study reveals that 92 per cent of consumers prefer recommendations from people they know, followed by a 70 per cent that prefers to trust the views posted by others online and a 58 per cent that prefers to read editorial content to form opinion about a product or brand.

The correlation is clear and quite sensible really, the more connected we get the less we tend to rely on commercial or vested interest sources of information. Why would you ask a salesman if a product he is selling is good ? The study results while unsurprising take us back to some basics in the ad business. Firstly do consumers really buy stuff because they trust advertising ? A causal look at ads on TV and their market share may indicate otherwise. Not all brands need to be trustworthy.

When you examine how the desired friend recommendation is acquired in the first place then the role of traditional media sources among other things may still be very secure. Traditional mass media remains a potent force in shaping opinions. Am yet to encounter digital experiences as great as those delivered by TV or theater.

The magic moments and the drama that have created brands. These traditional vehicles remain the most tried and tested vehicles through which to tell stories that compel and drive emotion. They are often the source of conversation. The challenge may therefore be in amplifying or creating additional and very personal dimensions to these media through experiences on-line.

Creating advertising that influences me to recommend or advocate a brand in my little “online village” may be the agency's greatest task. Marketers will always want control as that is how we define what people think and buy. Back to the Nielsen report, it continues to suggest that paid advertising  creates usage of owned media. Simply put people who see your ads are also likely to visit your website or blogs by their own accord as they seek more information.
The report goes further to suggest that social media and paid advertising is almost twice as memorable as ads without social integration, and this does make sense as you are more likely to remember a brand if your friends also use or comment about it. Creating the fine balance of  brand and friend influence could  be the greatest determinant of  brand success in a future full of many "little villages" .

Frank is lead consultant at FMC and CEO at mobile agency Sponge EA . This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. www.frankmaina.com

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