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Nielsen: Earned Advertising Remains Most Credible Among Chinese Consumers

Sue Feng,, 010-5912-9195

Trust in Traditional Advertising Still Strong, While Online and Mobile Ads Increase in Credibility
Health-themed Messages Resonate Most with Chinese Consumers

Shanghai – October 9th, 2013 – Eighty-six percent of consumers in China say they trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family, a form of earned media , above all other sources of advertising, according to a new study from Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and insights into what consumers watch and buy.

Owned advertising , in the form of content and messaging on brand websites, was the second most-trusted advertising source in 2013, with 80 percent of Chinese respondents indicating they trust this platform, up 20 percentage points and from a sixth-place ranking in 2011. Though consumer opinions posted online remain the third most-trusted form advertising (76%), it reports a 7-percentage point decrease compared to 2011. Brand sponsorship ranks the fourth most-trusted from of advertising, a 12-percent increase from 2011.

“Brand marketers should be especially encouraged to find owned advertising among the most-trusted marketing formats,” said Tao Libao, vice president of Nielsen Greater China. “This emphasizes the notion that marketers maintain the ability to control the message about their brands in a way that consumers consider credible. This perceived credibility is a key component in advertising effectiveness.”

Nielsen’s Global Survey of Trust in Advertising polled more than 29,000 Internet respondents in 58 countries to measure consumer sentiment on 19 forms of paid , earned and owned advertising formats. The latest round of the survey was conducted between February 18 and March 8, 2013.

Trust in Traditional Advertising Still Strong

Nielsen’s information shows that ads on television, in newspapers and in magazines continue to be among the most trusted forms of paid advertising in China. In particular, trust in television ads increased from 56 percent in 2011 to 66 percent in 2013. Sixty-three percent of Chinese respondents trusted TV program product placements, an increase of 15 percentage points from 2011.

And in the world of print media, 66 percent of respondents trusted ads in magazines, up 8 percentage points from 2011. Newspaper ads (54%) saw the smallest increase of only 2 percentage points over the past two years, but ads incorporated into editorial content such as newspaper articles won growing trust from consumers, from 57 percent in 2011 to the current 69 percent, equaling billboards and other outdoor advertising, which was the third most trusted form of advertising in 2011.

Although global ad spend grew a marginal 1.9 percent in the first quarter of 2013, traditional paid media continues to own the majority share of spend, with TV still in the top spot owning 59 percent, according to Nielsen’s most recent Global AdView Pulse.

“Despite the fragmented media environment in today’s China, traditional media, especially TV and print media, thanks to its wide-reach and long-standing credibility in delivering trusted news, still plays an irreplaceable role in delivering trustworthy marketing messages for advertisers,” said Tao. “Meanwhile, more and more Chinese consumers are also turning to online media via their smartphones or mobile devices to get information about brands.”

Increased Trust in Online and Mobile Media

Around three-fifths of Chinese respondents said they trusted both online video ads (61%) and ads on social network (59%), up 13 and 12 percentage points, respectively since 2011. For other online advertising, 58 percent of respondents trusted ads on mobile devices, and 53 percent trusted text ads on mobile phones.

Fifty-six percent of respondents in Nielsen’s survey believed online banner ads were credible, up 12 percent in 2011.

“Increases in the trust of paid online and mobile advertising demonstrate the growing importance of these formats,” said Tao. “With Internet ad spending reporting double-digit growth, advertisers are exhibiting growing confidence in these formats—or at least a willingness to make an investment. While companies may be unable to directly control the messages in earned media, such as consumer opinions posted online, they have the ability to create a positive presence for their brands on these channels.”

Trust Can be Translated into Action, But Not for All

Again, word-of-mouth formats, such as recommendations from family and friends and consumer opinions posted online, prompted the highest levels of action, among 88 percent and 75 percent of respondents, respectively. Meanwhile, branded websites also prompted 75 percent of respondents to take action.

In comparison with outdoor ads and online formats, Nielsen’s survey shows that consumers are more likely to take action on ads displayed in traditional media. Seventy-three percent of respondents indicated that they take action at least some of the time based on television ads, closely followed by editorial content, such as newspaper articles (69%), ads in newspapers (69%) and ads in magazines (67%).

Billboards and other outdoor advertising, though highly trusted by nearly 70 respondents, don’t necessarily translate into high purchase action from consumers. Nielsen information shows that only 64 percent of respondents indicated they were willing to take action at least some of the time based on ads displayed in this format.

And for other forms of online ads, consumer-consented emails led to the highest action rate of 69 percent, followed by ads served in search engine results (63%), ads on social network (62%), online video ads (59%), ads on mobile devices (59%), online banner ads (58%), and text ads on mobile phones (53%).

“Although online formats have the opportunity to engage more effectively with consumers, these ads need to be smarter, more creative and more provocative to challenge the status quo to gain more trust from the consumers,” said Tao.

Health-themed Messages Resonated Most for Chinese Consumers

In terms of advertising messages, health-themed (46%), high-energy/action (43%) and humorous (41%) resonated most with Chinese consumers. In particular, health-related ads created a most memorable brand identity for more women (54%) than men (41%).

Men and women also responded differently to ads that demonstrated real-life situations (36% among men vs. 45% among women), family-oriented messages (30% among men vs. 39% among women), sentimental messages (21% among men and 29% among women), and kid-centered messages (12% among men and 20% among women).

“For advertisers, it’s vital that consumers make a memorable and meaningful connection with both the message and brand. Regardless of the ad delivery format, be it print, billboard, TV or online, ads that carry messages that today’s Chinese consumers care about most, but also take the gender differences into account, can speak to the hearts and minds of consumers in China, and favorably impact them when making a purchase decision, which is a key metric of marketing ROI,” Tao concluded.

About the Nielsen Global Survey
The Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising was conducted between February 18 and March 8, 2013, and polled more than 29,000 consumers in 58 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America. The sample has quotas based on age and sex for each country based on their Internet users, and is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers and has a maximum margin of error of ±0.6%. This Nielsen survey is based on the behavior of respondents with online access only. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60 percent Internet penetration or 10M online population for survey inclusion. The Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Consumer Confidence Survey, was established in 2005.

About Nielsen
Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA, and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit