Consumer Perspectives on Advertising

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1 2013 Consumer Perspectives on Advertising

2 summary Everyone has something to say about advertising. But what do Canadians really think? What do they find acceptable in advertising? What concerns them and why? What is the role of advertising in Canadian society? Should there be rules and regulations for advertising, and who should be responsible for them? To help shed light on these questions and others, Advertising Standards Canada commissioned The Gandalf Group to take the pulse of Canadians impressions and perceptions of the advertising they see, hear, and read each day. ASC s 2013 Consumer Perspectives on Advertising provides the results from an October 2013 survey of 1,534 adult Canadians. The findings are instructive. In large measure, Canadians understand and accept that advertising pays for content. Most Canadians say there is value in advertising, and find it at least somewhat helpful in decision making. But Canadians are clear: they want advertising to be truthful. Importantly, Canadians are unequivocal in their disapproval of advertising that is disparaging or demeaning to persons, groups, and, as well, animals. And many say they are prepared to stop or have stopped purchasing a product because an ad was unacceptable to them. Canadians show broad acceptance of our diverse society in their views on advertising Consumer Perspectives on Advertising

3 Highlights Canadians understand and accept the role of advertising. The vast majority of Canadians agree that advertising is necessary to help pay for the content they enjoy. Most Canadians have a somewhat or very favourable impression of advertising. The majority of Canadians believe that much of the advertising they see, hear and read provides value to them, and most find advertising to be at least somewhat helpful in their decision making as a consumer. Many go even a bit further and state that they enjoy much of the advertising they see, hear or read. Truth in advertising is paramount. When asked what bothers or personally offends them in advertising, Canadians overwhelmingly responded with attempts to mislead. Particularly, in our current economic climate, there is concern about ads that are perceived to distort price or exaggerate product performance or service offerings. Canadians embrace diversity. Canadians have clear opinions around what is and is not acceptable to them in advertising. Images that might have been taboo decades ago, such as images of same sex couples, are now perfectly acceptable to the vast majority of Canadians. There is a gap in views by gender. Certain kinds of humour and ad content with sexual themes are clearly more acceptable to men than to women. Certain content is almost universally unacceptable. Overwhelmingly, Canadians find advertising they see as demeaning and disrespectful to identifiable groups, particularly those that are vulnerable, to be categorically unacceptable. Misleading advertising vs. advertising that offends. Few Canadians report they are personally concerned with ads based on issues of taste or decency. The clearest message from Canadians to advertisers is their disapproval of ads they perceive as inaccurate or misleading. Rules and regulations are important. A large majority of Canadians think it is important for there to be rules and regulations that advertisers must follow, and most Canadians believe these rules and regulations are in place. There is a bottom-line impact. A large majority of Canadians say they would stop purchasing a product if a company ran an ad that they found unacceptable. In fact, a majority say they have done so already Consumer Perspectives on Advertising 3

4 Detailed Results Canadians understand and accept the role of advertising A majority of Canadians believe that advertising is needed to pay for the content and programming they enjoy. This is the case across all forms of media and all demographics. Notably, those who watch four or more hours of television per day are the most likely to agree that advertising is necessary. Q: Advertising Please tell us if you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with the following statements is needed to help pay for programs and content I enjoy. Strongly agree Somewhat agree 35% 44% NEWS Heavy listeners MAG radio light listeners 33% 45% 36% 43% NEWS MAG Heavy watchers television light watchers 37% 47% 35% 42% NEWS Heavy readers MAG newspaper light readers 34% 36% 43% 45% NEWS MAG Heavy readers magazine light readers 34% 36% 46% 43% NEWS MAG Heavy users internet light users 33% 43% 37% 44% 0% 100% Consumer Perspectives on Advertising

5 Q: favourable, Most Canadians have a somewhat or very favourable impression of advertising A majority of Canadians hold a favourable impression of the advertising that they see, hear or read. Most Canadians see value in advertising, and many believe it is at least somewhat helpful to their decision making as a consumer. Generally speaking, how favourable is your impression of the advertising you see, hear or read? Please tell us on a scale of 1 to 9, where 1 is not at all and 9 is very favourable Very favourable (7-9) 1% Somewhat favourable (4-6) Not favourable (1-3) I don t know 30% 53% Generally speaking, how much value does the advertising that you see, hear or read offer to you? Q: 3% 16% Significant value Some value 37% Slight value No value at all I don t know 45% 14% 2013 Consumer Perspectives on Advertising 5

6 Q: and How helpful is the advertising you see, hear or read to your decision making as a consumer? Please tell us on a scale of 1 to 9, where 1 is not at all helpful 9 is very helpful. Very helpful (7-9) Somewhat helpful (4-6) Not helpful (1-3) 15% 42% 43% Women and Canadians aged are more likely than others to say they personally receive at least some value from the advertising that they see, hear or read. In an economy where Canadians are watching their spending, advertising is seen as a valuable tool for information about products and services. Moms are more likely than Canadians-at-large to say they rely on advertisements to help them decide what to buy. They are also more likely than other women to say that they have a favourable impression of advertising. While most Canadians are positively disposed towards advertising, it is interesting to look at the extremes. At one extreme are those who are very positively disposed to advertising they find it very helpful and it provides a great deal of value to them. At the other extreme are those who hold a less favourable viewpoint towards advertising. They don t find that advertising is helpful, nor do they believe it offers them value, and they certainly don t indicate enjoyment of ads. Truth in advertising is paramount With respect to why Canadians are bothered or offended by ads, the number one concern is related to truth in advertising. When Canadians were asked to give examples of elements of advertising that bothers or offends them personally, cultural and ideological factors played a role, but advertising perceived to be misleading or inaccurate topped the list Consumer Perspectives on Advertising

7 Q: or 41% People have different ideas of what bothers or offends them in an advertisement. Please give us three examples of something that bothers offends you personally if it is in an advertisement. 40% 30% 20% 12% 11% 9% 8% 8% 7% 6% 6% 6% 6% 10% 5% 5% 4% 4% 4% 4% 4% 0% Inaccurate depiction of toys in children s advertising Promotes irresponsible/unnecessary consumption Sexist towards women Stereotypes: by gender Stereotypes: general Stereotypes: by race Unintelligent/lack of creativity/use of stupid humour Condescending to consumers Intrusive/aggressive/obnoxious/noisy Political party/representatives, attack ads/self promotion Vulgar/offensive, unnecessarily violent/gross, rude/crass Repetitive, repeated too frequently Encourages bad/dangerous/irresponsible behaviour misleading, false claims, exaggeration, manipulation Degrades/demeans people or lifestyles Not informative, lacks message/content sexual themes/content Exploits youth/children

8 So what constitutes misleading to consumers? Any claim that isn t accurate and true; any offer that doesn t list all costs and conditions; and any overstatement of the results of the product or enhanced images of results. Essentially, Canadians want ads to inform. They understand and are comfortable that ads exist to persuade, but want them to do so truthfully. At least 85% said each of the following is unacceptable to them in an advertisement: Using Photoshop or image altering software to highlight the results that can be achieved from product use; Advertising a guarantee without mentioning limitations; Using text that is too small to read or displayed on screen too quickly to read; Not including all costs in the advertised price; Advertising products as environmentally friendly when they may not be; Advertising free products or services that actually are subject to fees; Using user reviews and testimonials that are not genuine; Inaccurately depicting what a product is or can do; Misrepresenting results of a survey or study; and, Suggesting a scientific basis for a claim when there isn t one. Canadians embrace diversity Perceptions of what is acceptable in advertising have changed over time. The vast majority of Canadians are accepting of ads that portray interracial couples or families, and a strong majority are also accepting of ads that portray same sex couples or families. Canadians are very supportive of the realities of our modern culture and experiences being portrayed in advertising. Illustrating the dramatic and rapid change in societal norms is the fact that only sixteen percent of Canadians find the portrayal of same sex couples unacceptable in advertising. Think about it. Just a decade ago, same sex couples were considered by many to be a threat to their values Consumer Perspectives on Advertising

9 Q: following On a scale of one to nine where one is completely unacceptable and nine is completely acceptable, how acceptable would you personally find each of the in an advertisement acceptable (7-9) Somewhat acceptable (4-6) Not acceptable (1-3) I don t know Interracial couples/families Ages 84 % 8 % 6 % 2 % 88 % 6 % 3 % 3 % 87 % 7 % 4 % 2 % 84 % 8 % 8 % 0 % 80 % 9 % 8 % 3 % 79 % 10 % 8 % 3 % Same sex couples/families Ages 69 % 14 % 16 % 1 % 82 % 8 % 9 % 1 % 74 % 11 % 13 % 2 % 63 % 17 % 19 % 1 % 64 % 18 % 17 % 1 % 55 % 21 % 23 % 1 % 2013 Consumer Perspectives on Advertising 9

10 There is a gap in views by gender There are some images and narratives for which a strong gender gap exists, specifically when it comes to advertisements containing nudity, sexual themes, crude humour, and shocking or frightening content. Men are more comfortable than women with nudity either male or female nudity sexual themes, and unrealistic body depictions. Q: following On a scale of one to nine where one is completely unacceptable and nine is completely acceptable, how acceptable would you personally find each of the in an advertisement acceptable (7-9) Somewhat acceptable (4-6) Not acceptable (1-3) I don t know Consumer Perspectives on Advertising

11 2013 Consumer Perspectives on Advertising 11

12 Q: acceptable Certain content is almost universally unacceptable Then, there are images and content that appear unacceptable to most Canadians. Many of these have a disparaging element to them, and include themes of violence, ageism, sexism, racism, demeaning portrayal of persons with disabilities, poor treatment of animals or the environment, or the depiction of bullying even when intended as humour. The rapid emergence of bullying as a societal concern illustrates how the advertising industry exists in a dynamic world of evolving values and changing levels of tolerance. On a scale of one to nine where one is completely unacceptable and nine is completely acceptable, how acceptable would you personally find each of the following in an advertisement (7-9) Somewhat acceptable (4-6) Not acceptable (1-3) I don t know 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Demeaning portrayals of persons with disabilities Use of profanity Images of male bodies that are unrealistic for normal men Sexist depictions of women Ageist depictions of seniors Depictions of unsafe driving Images of female bodies that are unrealistic for normal women Rude or impolite language or behaviour Bullying, even as a joke Sexist depictions of men Violence Demeaning portrayal of religion/religious symbols Disrespect for the environment Depictions of unsafe behaviour Disrespectful treatment of animals Racist depictions of ethnic groups/minorities Consumer Perspectives on Advertising

13 There is clear consensus around any content that might be demeaning to vulnerable people or communities. This is just unacceptable. Animals and the environment also enjoy a protected place in Canadians sentiments. Rude, unsafe and violent behaviour, and inaccurate representations of average body types are bothersome to most Canadians. Overlaying the whole discussion of the importance of acceptable advertising content is the fact that most Canadians believe that advertising plays a role in shaping society s values. A majority of Canadians believe advertising can change how we think of ourselves and each other. Women, parents, and Canadians involved in their communities are more likely to believe that advertising affects our shared values. It explains in part why Canadians have clear ideas around acceptable content. Q: Advertising Which of these two views is closer to your own? mirrors the values of society Advertising shapes the values of society I don t know 47 % 41 % 12 %

14 Misleading advertising vs. advertising that offends When asked to choose between which concerned them more advertising that is perceived as misleading or advertising that is personally offensive to them a significant majority of Canadians say they are more concerned with inaccurate or misleading advertising than advertising they find offensive. Q: Generally, in terms of Canadian advertising, which of the following concerns you more? Is it... Advertising that is untruthful, inaccurate or misleading Advertising that is offensive 85 % 15 % 88 % 82 % 12 % 18 % Ages 88 % 86 % 85 % 83 % 83 % 12 % 14 % 15 % 17 % 17 % Women and Canadians over age 65 are more likely than most to be concerned with content they find offensive, but even among these populations, eight-in-ten are more concerned with misleading or inaccurate advertising Consumer Perspectives on Advertising

15 Q: important, Rules and regulations are important Overwhelmingly, Canadians believe that advertising should be truthful, accurate, fair, not misleading, and not offensive. Please tell us on a 1 to 9 scale where 1 is not at all important and 9 is very how important it is that advertisers ensure that advertising is Very important Somewhat important Not important I don t know accurate 2% 2% truthful 2% 2% not misleading 3% 2% 96% 96% 95% fair 3% 1% 9% 87% not offensive 7% 17% 75% Canadian consumers expect and demand that advertisers adhere to standards. They strongly support that advertisers be required to follow rules and regulations, and most Canadians believe that these rules and regulations are already in place. When people are aware of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards and Advertising Standards Canada, they are more likely to be comfortable with advertising and the way it is regulated. Canadians primarily believe that the companies that pay for creative, the ad agencies that create it, and the media that disseminate it are the most responsible to ensure that advertising standards are met Consumer Perspectives on Advertising 15

16 Q: In your opinion, how important is it to have rules and regulations that advertisers must follow? Would you say that it is... Very important Somewhat important Not very important Not at all important PERCENT % 12% 2% 85% Q: To the best of your knowledge, are there rules and regulations about advertising that advertisers must follow? yes no I don t know 5% 77% 18% 2% 4% 94% 6% 67% 27% Consumer Perspectives on Advertising

17 There is a bottom-line impact There are consequences to advertisers for advertisements consumers find unacceptable. Canadians clearly speak with their wallets, and advertisers should know that if the ads Canadians see, read, or hear are not acceptable to them, consumers have and will shop elsewhere. Ninety-two percent of Canadians say they would be very likely or somewhat likely to stop buying from a particular company because of unacceptable advertising. In fact, three-in-five say they have previously stopped purchasing from a company because of advertisements they deemed unacceptable. Q: How likely would you be to stop purchasing a product or service if the company offering it ran advertising that you considered unacceptable because it was not truthful, was not accurate, or was offensive? 92% likely Q: the Have you ever stopped purchasing a company s product or service because company s ads were unacceptable to you? yes total 61 % 52 % 69 % 60 % 69 % 63 % 61% 62 % 58% The likelihood of not purchasing a company s products holds true across all major demographics. While Canadians under age 35 and parents are slightly less likely than the average Canadian to stop purchasing a company s product or service because of advertising, roughly three-in-five Canadians said they had altered their purchasing patterns in response to advertising they found did not meet their standards Consumer Perspectives on Advertising 17

18 The role of Advertising Standards Canada Advertising Standards Canada administers the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards (Code). This Code sets the standards for acceptable advertising in Canada. ASC s Truth in Advertising public awareness campaign has resulted in a marked increase of awareness of this Code. Awareness of the Code goes hand-in-hand with an awareness of ASC, which is associated with greater confidence in Canadian advertisers. Print PSAs - Truth in Advertising Matters Consumer Perspectives on Advertising

19 Advertising Standards Canada Founded in 1957, ASC is the national independent advertising industry self-regulatory body committed to creating and maintaining public confidence in advertising. ASC members leading advertisers, advertising agencies, media and suppliers to the advertising industry are committed to supporting responsible and effective advertising self-regulation. A not-for-profit organization, ASC administers the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, the principal instrument of advertising self-regulation in Canada, and a national mechanism for accepting and responding to consumers complaints about advertising. The Gandalf Group The Gandalf Group is a Toronto-based consulting firm that provides expertise in public opinion research, strategic communications and issues management. About the Study In 2013, ASC commissioned The Gandalf Group to measure Canadians perceptions about advertising. In October 2013, a randomly drawn representative survey of 1,534 adult Canadians focused on understanding Canadians attitudes about advertising. A survey of this size would have a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The ASC Survey: 2013 Consumer Perspectives on Advertising can be downloaded at: Advertising Standards Canada 2013 Consumer Perspectives on Advertising 19

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