Will declining trust in the media impact marketing messages?
New Zealanders’ trust in the media is declining according to the Trust in News in Aotearoa New Zealand report by AUT’S research centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy (JMAD) – but what does this mean for the relationship between marketers and the media? The report, authored by Dr Merja Myllylahti and Dr Greg Treadwell, was based on the responses of 1,085 New Zealand adults (18 years of age or over) surveyed between February 22 and March 1, 2022, by Horizon Research. It found that during the period spanning 2020-22, people’s trust in the news dropped 10 percent. While 62 percent of New Zealanders trusted the news they consumed in 2020, by 2022 the figure had reduced to 52 percent. The most trusted news brand for 2022 was RNZ with a trust score of 6.2/10 while The Otago Daily Times was the second most trusted news brand with a score of 6/10 followed by TVNZ (5.9/10) and Newshub (5.8/10). The Spinoff and Newstalk ZB were the only two organisations included to maintain the same trust levels as they had in 2021. So, from a marketing perspective, does the symbiotic relationship between advertisers and the media mean advertisers will want to align their brands with trustworthy news sources and vice versa? Associated Professor Peter Thompson, Communications Programme Director at Victoria University of Wellington, theorises that declining trust and increased scepticism toward a media platform or content form will intensify this distrust for other platforms and content. However, whether this will automatically mean reduced trust in marketing brands/advertising communicated through that source or vice versa is “far from clear-cut” Peter says. “Marketing firms and advertisers do seem to be generally aware of these complexities, at least if they are keeping up with the research. Meanwhile, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the ways that digital media harvest their data and use it to target them with advertising or manipulate them with disinformation. In an environment where consumers are sensitised to the prevalence of disinformation and other nefarious practices, it is therefore possible that this may engender increasing cynicism towards any form of marketing. “If that is the case (and research is needed here) then an advertiser’s decision to switch to ostensibly more trusted media may not make much difference to the way consumers respond to the messages. Rather like Covid, declining trust may be symptomatic of a pandemic which crosses species, platforms, and genres,” he says. From a media perspective, Greg says the future of news “is dependent on restoring a decent income”, that income largely being in the hands of advertisers. “If we can recreate trust, the immediate benefit of that is that we can say to our advertisers ‘we are a trustworthy brand’. A good trustworthy media is something to align yourself with and it does reflect the values of the brand. “Today positionality is everything. Trusted brands trusting media is good for the media as well. “I hope that increasingly there is a synthesis of thought that makes everybody understand the benefits in it for each other and that building trust with brands goes both ways. “Marketing should stand by the media that it uses and needs. People do come to the media generally speaking for good information and that’s what marketing should align itself with. Those positive and most truthful exchanges about the wider world.”