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Marketing trust as a unique selling proposition for advertisers

By Nadine Chevolleau

The Toronto Star

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


I heard a news report on the radio recently quoting an Angus Reid survey that found one in 10 Facebook users in Canada plan on canceling their Facebook accounts. This is due to the recent allegations Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed people’s personal information, then used it to influence the 2016 U.S. election.

The radio host followed up with his own analysis that “one in 10 Canadians are lying!” Funny! And, probably not far from the truth.

All joking aside, there’s a lot that went wrong on Facebook’s side, for which it is feeling the pressure and rightly so (CEO Mark Zuckerberg spent Tuesday testifying in Washington, D.C.). But despite the scandals plaguing social media platforms recently — and not just Facebook — consumers still find it hard to step away.

Distrust in Facebook and other social media platforms point to the importance of trust, an attribute news media companies should use with their advertisers.
Distrust in Facebook and other social media platforms point to the importance of trust, an attribute news media companies should use with their advertisers.

I’m not a big Facebook fan, but I admit I am hooked on Facebook Marketplace, so I get the addictive nature of the platform and why some users would find it hard to give up. For many, the platform satisfies the need for social interaction, and it appears most users are willing to overlook its shortcomings.

As a marketer, I’m naturally curious about what opportunities arise for publishers as a result of this Facebook fiasco.

I’ve read several stories about large advertisers, such as Unilever and Walmart, pulling their ad spend on social media platforms (or threatening to) if they don’t improve transparency about real versus fake news and implement more stringent policies to protect minors from toxic online content.

In contrast, there are also advertisers expressing support for Facebook, confident this scandal will galvanise the company to make changes to better protect consumer privacy and come out better in the end.

Ironically, one of the first steps Facebook took to restore public trust was to advertise in the newspaper. Ironic, but not surprising, since there are several research studies and polls confirming traditional advertising channels are more trustworthy than ads appearing in social media.

With this in mind, should we be doing more to differentiate our value to advertisers?

If you were to ask your print or digital subscribers why they read your content, most would probably mention trust as a major factor. For many traditional publishers, trust is at the core of what we are providing to our subscribers; it is one of our unique selling propositions (USP) and we often build this message into our consumer marketing.

Should we be doing more to communicate this USP to advertising clients as well? We typically focus on audience size and demographic and psychographic data, but what about aligning that message with the importance we place on providing accurate, trusted news and information, and the benefits of positioning a brand in that space?

Advertisers know their brands are judged by the company they keep; in other words, the content that surrounds them.

I think the Guardian does a good job of communicating the value of trust and influence in its video to advertisers: “… the world doesn’t need more ad inventory; it needs better inventory … We deliver ads that work harder for our advertisers without compromising the experience for our readers.”

The truth is the social media tech giants will likely retool and improve consumer trust, and hopefully this will come about through collaboration with news media. That said, there’s an immediate opportunity to remind advertisers of what makes our platform (digital or print) unique besides the size of our audience.

About Nadine Chevolleau

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