Ads on television are most likely to strike viewers as “unacceptable,” but the digital realm is more widely perceived as being unregulated.
That’s according to a new survey released on Wednesday, which measured people’s attitudes toward ads. It was conducted by research firm Gandalf Group for industry self-regulator Advertising Standards Canada. Just 39 per cent of those surveyed said they had seen ads they found unacceptable, 44 per cent said they had not, and 17 per cent were unsure. Among those who did see objectionable ads, more than half said they saw them on television. People under age 35 were much more likely to see unacceptable ads on Facebook and YouTube – other highly cited sources – than the rest of the population.
Despite television being a commonly perceived source of bad ads, people were much less confident that industry rules apply to online ads than to the industry in general. People were particularly unsure of the rules that apply to “influencers” – celebrities and others with a significant following on social media who sometimes endorse products to those followers.
Only about one-quarter of people found such “influencer marketing” unacceptable even when it is transparent; but three-quarters object if influencers do not disclose that they were paid for endorsements. (Advertising Standards Canada does require that people disclose such information.) Responses were mixed when it came to the question of whether people would buy a product because of an influencer’s recommendation.
The desire for transparency is a theme in the survey. People cited other online practices – such as fake customer reviews, advertised prices that are lower than in reality and “native” advertising that is designed to look like an article or other content – as factors that would make them less likely to buy something. Overall, false or misleading tactics were most likely to be cited as reasons that people found ads unacceptable.