Ad execs regain dubious accolade of Britain’s least trusted profession

Trust: internet has created new sources of misinformation (Image: Peter Dazeley/Getty)
Trust: internet has created new sources of misinformation (Image: Peter Dazeley/Getty)

They have slipped below politicians, after previously claiming title in 2018.

Advertising executives are once again the least trusted profession in the UK, a title they previously held in 2018, according to the latest Veracity Index from Ipsos Mori. 

The polling company asked 1,873 UK adults in October if they "generally trusted" 29 job categories, one of which being "the man/woman in the street". 

Just 13% said they trusted ad execs – down from 17% in 2019. That means they fell below politicians (in general), who ever so slightly increased their trust level from 14% to 15%. Trust in government ministers, though, was down from 17% to 16%. 

This year’s survey found declining trust across a number of professions, including most of the less trusted ones, such as journalists (down three points to 23%) and business leaders (down two points to 33%). But there was also a slight drop for society’s most trusted: nurses (down two to 93%) and doctors (down two to 91%).

Bankers, once the least trusted profession of all, continued their rehabilitation with a rise from 43% to 44%.

Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, said the industry should not accept low levels of trust as inevitable. 

“There are things we can do to improve the way the public perceive our profession,” he argued. “We have a trust action plan with a clear objective to rebuild public trust in advertising, tackling issues such as excessive frequency and bombardment, while focusing on celebrating fantastic creativity and valued social contributions, linking them back to greater effectiveness for businesses. 

“We also must do everything we can to support the Advertising Standards Authority – we have the highest standards in the world for the self-regulation of advertising and we know that the more public are aware of the ASA, the more likely they are to be favourable towards advertising. Our test campaign in Scotland is well under way with fantastic support from media owners, agencies and advertisers, and we are planning to scale this across the UK in 2021. 

“We must also make fast progress on the industry’s biggest concerns, namely building a more inclusive workplace for all and taking positive action on the climate emergency as we have just set out in the Ad Net Zero launch. In short, there are concrete things we can do as an industry to make improvements in this area and it is vital we do so.”

James Best, chairman of the ad industry's think tank Credos, added: “Ad execs have long been the butt of cruel humour – there will be people in our industry familiar with how our profession was portrayed in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, so it’s not a new problem. But there is a more serious issue here, which is that ads as ‘salesman’ are not as trusted as we would like. We need action to tackle this, like that set out by the Advertising Association, IPA and ISBA in the trust action plan, underpinned by our Credos trust research, which tracks public trust in and favourability of advertising.”

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