New global Nielsen study reveals who trusts what in advertising

nielsen trust in ad industry report

Nielsen has published the results of a global study into trust in advertising, designed to uncover consumer opinions on advertising globally. 

The study found that trust differs by age, who is in the adverts—with sports personalities fairing the best—and the impact of influencers. 

It also uncovered the subject matters that resonate most with consumers.

Nielsen global study

The study was undertaken with 40,000 individuals during August and September 2021 across EMEA, Asia Pacific, North America and Latin America. 

It is part of a media research survey undertaken by Nielsen to better understand the advertising landscape, to help advertisers and businesses shape more effective advertising.

Key findings globally:

  • Millennials (25-40) and Gen X (41-56) trust advertising the most. Those aged 65+, followed by Gen Z (15-24) and Boomers (57-66) have the least trust
  • Men and women globally have similar overall levels of trust in advertising
  • 89% of people most trust recommendations from people they know (word of mouth)
  • Trust levels vary depending on industry type, with tobacco ads as the least trusted
  • Brand sponsorship at sporting events ranked third-most trusted channel, with 81% either completely or somewhat trusting this channel
  • 23% of people trust ads from influencers. Advertising and opinions about brands and products were less trusted when delivered via an influencer
  • Generally humorous ads resonate more than ads that are action, sports, kids, car, sentimental, competitive, athletic or celebrity based. Exceptions include Korea and Saudi Arabia
  • Health themes, real-life situations and value orientated ads also resonate more than those themed as sexual, car, competitive or sports.

The survey addressed the following topics:

  • Expression toward advertising
  • Comparisons of trust on earned vs. owned media and paid traditional vs. paid online/mobile
  • How trust translates into action
  • The types of advertising that resonate the most
  • Types of advertising most trusted by category, and activities that consumers are ‘open to’ from advertisers.

Cathy Heeley, International Media Analytics Lead, Nielsen, said: “This research gives us in- depth insight into consumer perception around levels of trust in media channels as well as into the types of messaging that resonates most. 

“It comes as no surprise we all trust personal recommendations above and beyond any other channel. Human to human trust is fundamental to daily life. 

“It is also no great surprise that over 78% of people trust ads on TV. Across the world people believe that ads on TV are run by legitimate businesses and so these are given credence over some of the newer forms of advertising.

“When it comes to messaging we see that humour is an important factor and it ranks third in terms of messaging that most resonates. 

“However, given the challenges that we are experiencing the world over we are seeing that advertising messages need to be credible and depict real life. 

“Health shines through as key in today’s world, but a bit of humour also helps.

“By exploring these key elements we can help advertisers and media owners better understand the drivers of trust and mistrust in advertising, better supporting them in defining content and audience strategies.”

For further details about Nielsen please visit:, and click here for more details about the 2021 Trust in Advertising Study.