May 15, 2018

3 Ways Marketers Can Battle Media Distrust

By Jay Bemis | Advertising Systems Inc.

The recent news that Cambridge Analytica harvested the personal information of about 80 million Facebook users in the United States ahead of the 2016 elections has sunk trust in the media to all-time lows — depths that lawyers and used-car salesmen once enjoyed.

Coupled with other personal-data breaches big companies have suffered in recent years and growing cries of “fake news” in today’s political climate, marketers are worried about how consumers are perceiving their brands, and for good reason.

What can marketers and brands do to remedy the problem? Geoff Ramsey, co-founder of eMarketer, has identified three ways that brands can start fixing the public’s deep distrust with the media and was to lay out those proposed solutions this week for his digital-marketing, research-team members.

However, he laid them out first for all members of the marketing community in an eMarketer column he wrote last week.

“Consumers are more likely to trust banks — and even insurance firms — than marketing or advertising companies,” Ramsey notes. He cited a September 2017 PwC survey that found that just 6 percent of U.S. internet users said they trusted media and entertainment companies, with a similar, small number saying they trusted social media.

“But dead last was trust for marketing and advertising firms, at only 3 percent,” Ramsey adds. “Ouch.”

Fortunately, Ramsey says, some companies already are taking steps toward fixing the problem of distrust in media.

These include social-media platforms that are using technology and labor “to clean up their environments and better manage the partners with whom they share data.” Publishers, meanwhile, are being “more vigilant about eliminating and calling out fake news.” And, “pioneering technology companies are building blockchain platforms to make media buying more transparent and accountable.”

But what can marketers at smaller companies and brands do? Ramsey says you should focus on these three steps, all of which involve taking more control of your brand:

1) Picking your publishing partners carefully.

Ramsey calls this step “taking a flight to safety,” or a more active role in controlling the context in which your ads and branded content appear.

To ensure brand safety, marketers can take programmatic media buying in-house and insist that their agency partners shift their programmatic spend toward premium publishing partners through programmatic direct buys, Ramsey says. “They can also whitelist brand-safe websites, and blacklist unsavory or unknown ones.”

2) Building your own direct relationships with consumers, thereby collecting that data directly and bypassing the platforms and other middlemen.

By building direct relationships, you’re focusing more on first-party data and less on third-party data from such platform giants as Facebook and Google.

“Clearly, third-party data is addictive,” Ramsey says. “But since providers of such data don’t have direct relationships with users, they make inferences to build their data sets, and those inferences can be wrong.”

3) Focusing on using your data and your content — “to delight the customer over time, as opposed to just making a quick sale.”

“In survey after survey, consumers indicate that they will willingly provide information about themselves if they see a clear and immediate value exchange,” Ramsey says.

“Marketers wanting to build trust will have to take the slow and steady road to personalization — gathering data incrementally, one bit at a time, and making sure that each time, they are rewarding the customer for their time, attention and trust.”

(Need help choosing your publishing partners carefully? Consider Advertising Systems Inc., which has been helping small businesses, mid-sized companies and corporations maximize their marketing dollars since 1999.)

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