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Earned Advertising Remains Most Credible Among Consumers

4 minute read | September 2013

Hong Kong – Eighty-three percent of consumers in Hong Kong say they trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family, a form of earned media, above all other sources of advertising, according to a new study from Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and insights into what consumers watch and buy. Accordingly, trust in traditional advertising still strong, while online and mobile ads increase in credibility.

Although owned advertising, in the form of content and messaging on brand websites, was remained Top 3 most-trusted advertising (53%), there is a significant 13 percentage points decrease comparing to 2011 figure. Instead, Hong Kong consumers reported an increase in trust on online opinions, which rose from 52 to 57 percent. Thirty-one percent of respondents in the same survey believed display ads on mobile devices were credible, a 6 percentage points increase since 2011.

“Increases in the trust of online and mobile advertising demonstrate the growing importance of these formats,” said Eva Leung, Managing Director, Nielsen Hong Kong & Macau. “While in Hong Kong companies may be unable to directly control the messages in earned media, such as consumer opinions posted online, they have the ability to create a positive presence for their brands on these channels.”

Nielsen’s Global Survey of Trust in Advertising polled more than 29,000 Internet respondents in 58 countries to measure consumer sentiment on 19 forms of paid, earned and owned advertising formats. The latest round of the survey was conducted between February 18 and March 8, 2013.

Trust in Traditional Advertising Still Strong

Ads in newspaper, on television and in magazines continue to be among the most trusted forms of paid advertising in Hong Kong. Trust in newspaper ads increased from 35% in 2011 to 45% in 2013, while 44% and 42% of respondents trusted ads on TV and magazines respectively. According to another Nielsen’s survey done in February, around one-third (31%) of advertisers indicated increase in advertising spend in 2013 and TV still accounted for the biggest share of advertising budget. However, digital media recorded the highest growth of advertising budget, replacing newspaper with the second largest advertising share.

“While TV remains the front-running format for the delivery of marketing messages based on ad spend, Hong Kong consumers are also looking to online media to get information about brands,” noted Eva. “On the flipside, earned advertising channels have empowered consumers to advocate for their favorite brands, something that shouldn’t go unnoticed by brand advertisers.”

Engaging Consumers with Trust to Take Action Go Hand in Hand

Again, word-of-mouth formats, such as recommendations from family and friends and consumer opinions posted online, prompted the highest levels of action, among 88% and 71% of respondents, respectively. Roughly two-thirds of respondents indicated that they take action at least some of the time based on ads displayed in newspaper (69%), signed-up emails (68%), ads on TV (68%), branded websites (65%), ads in magazines (65%) and editorial write-ups in different channels (62%).

The take-action scores for most of ad formats exceeded the trust score, suggesting that consumers may be willing to check out a product even if they did not find the ad completely credible. In a broader sense, the overall scores demonstrate that ads are prompting a reaction in consumers.

Real-life and practical messages resonated more to Hong Kong Consumers

In terms of advertising messages, real-life situations (53%), value-oriented (43%) and health-themed (39%) messages resonated most with Hong Kong consumers. In particular, health-related ads created a more memorable brand identity towards women (47%) than men (32%). On the contrary, forty-seven percent of global respondents agreed that humorous ads resonated most, while only 30% of Hong Kong consumers get resonated.

“For advertisers, it’s vital that consumers make a memorable and meaningful connection with both the message and brand. Regardless of the ad delivery format, effectively reaching consumers is predicated upon having a message that favorably impacts consumers when making a purchase decision.” Eva concluded.

– Earned media (or earned advertising) defined as advertising endorsed by a third party.- Owned advertising defined as advertising managed by a brand.- Paid advertising defined as advertising paid for by a brand

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising was conducted between February 18 and March 8, 2013, and polled more than 29,000 consumers in 58 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America. The sample has quotas based on age and sex for each country based on their Internet users, and is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers and has a maximum margin of error of ±0.6%. This Nielsen survey is based on the behavior of respondents with online access only. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60 percent Internet penetration or 10M online population for survey inclusion. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Survey, was established in 2005.

About Nielsen

Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA, and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit