Personal recommendations and brands' websites the most trusted forms of advertising in China

However, consumer opinions posted online and brand sponsorships also scored highly

Recommendations by personal acquaintances and brand websites are the most trusted forms of advertising in China, according to the latest twice-yearly Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey of over 25,000 Internet consumers from 50 markets.

The Nielsen survey, the largest of its kind, shows that more than nine in every ten Internet consumers in China (91 percent) trust recommendations from people they know, whilst over eight in every ten (82 percent) trust a brand’s website. In this new age of consumer control, advertisers in China will be encouraged by the fact that brand websites – the most trusted form of advertiser-led advertising – are trusted by slightly more people than consumer opinions posted online (78 percent) (see chart 1).

In comparison, recommendations by personal acquaintances (90 percent) and opinions posted by consumers online (70 percent) are the most trusted forms of advertising globally, although brand websites scored equally high.

“The explosion in Consumer Generated Media over the last couple of years – we are now tracking over 100 million CGM sources – means consumers’ reliance on word of mouth in the decision-making process, either from people they know or online consumers they don’t, has increased significantly,” says Jed Meyer, Managing Director, Media Services, The Nielsen Company, Greater China.

He adds, “However, we see that all forms of advertiser-led advertising have also experienced increases in levels of trust and it’s possible that the CGM revolution has forced advertisers to use a more realistic form of messaging that is grounded in the experience of consumers rather than the lofty ideals of the advertisers.”

The Trust in Advertising element of the Nielsen global survey was first conducted in April 2007 and has now been repeated two years later, and reveals that in China, ads before a movie have seen the greatest increase in levels of trust from 23 percent of Internet consumers in April 2007 to 53 percent in April 2009 – an absolute increase of 30 percentage points.

Ads before the movies are closely followed by brand sponsorship which has increased from 51 percent to 76 percent – a 25 percentage point increase – and online banner ads which have increased by 24 percent from 11 percent in April 2007 to 35 percent in April 2009 (see chart 2).

Globally, consumer opinions posted online tend to be trusted most by Vietnamese Internet consumers (81 percent) and their Italian (80 percent), Chinese (78 percent) counterparts. However, online opinions tend to be trusted the least in Argentina (46 percent) and Finland (50 percent).

When it comes to trusting brand sponsorships, Latin American countries lead the way, with 81 percent of both Colombian and Venezuelan Internet consumers and 79 percent of Brazilians trusting this form of advertising. In contrast, sponsorships hold the least sway amongst Swedish (33 percent), Latvian (36 percent) and Finnish online consumers (38 percent). In comparison, 76 percent of China Internet consumers trust brand sponsorships.

Brand websites, globally the most trusted form of advertiser-led advertising, hold the greatest sway in China (82 percent). Following China are Pakistan (81 percent) and Vietnam (80 percent). However, brand websites tend to be trusted least amongst Swedish (40 percent) and Israeli (45 percent) Internet consumers.

“The regional differences provide a clear guide to advertisers as to how they should focus their ad strategy in different countries. It also shows that, despite the authority of word of mouth when it comes to consumer decision-making, advertisers still have a major say in the process.

This is supported by past Nielsen studies which showed that the majority of people posting comments online went to the advertiser website or emailed feedback to the company before they posted. The website, and monitoring feedback through it, is a golden opportunity for advertisers to shape the tone and content before it reaches the digital masses,” said Meyer.

Although brand websites score highly amongst Internet consumers, the survey shows that other forms of digital advertising are trusted less than ads appearing in traditional media such as TV billboards, radio, magazines and newspapers. Text ads on mobile phones (23 percent), online banner ads (35 percent), online video ads (35 percent) and ads in search engine results (36 percent) are the forms of advertising least likely to elicit a degree of trust.

Meyer concludes, “Despite the huge increase in the size of the world’s Internet population and the sheer amount of time being spent online, the industry has yet to attract advertising revenue consummate with the current levels of online media consumption.

The study shows there is still work to be done to shift advertising revenue from traditional forms of media to the Internet. The ability to turn this around rests on overhauling the way display advertising is served online so that it becomes a more effective medium for brand advertisers and a more trusted form of advertising in the mind of the consumer.”

Chart 1: Have some degree of trust* in the following forms of advertising in April 2009


Source: Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey April 2009 / Base: All Respondents

*E.g. 90 percent of respondents trusted “completely” or “somewhat” recommendations from people they know

Chart 2: Forms of advertising ranked by changes in levels of trust from April 2007 to April 2009

Source: Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey April 2009 / Base: All Respondents

E.g. Trust in brand sponsorships increased by 15% in April 2009 from 49% of respondents in April 2007

NB: Editorial content, billboards/outdoor advertising and online video ads not covered in April 2007 survey


About The Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey

The Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey, conducted by Nielsen Consumer Research, was conducted from 19th March – 2nd April 2009 among 25,420 Internet consumers in 50 markets across Europe, Asia Pacific, North & Latin America and the Middle East. The largest half-yearly survey of its kind, the Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey provides insight into the opinions and preferences of Internet consumers across the world.

About The Nielsen Company

The Nielsen Company is a global information and media company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence, mobile measurement, trade shows and business publications (Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, Adweek). The privately held company is active in more than 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA. For more information, please visit,

Source: Nielsen China (July 20, 2009)

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posted on July 20, 2009
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