Press Room

Advertising in China: Driving Trust and Action

Branded websites are the second-most trusted form of advertising, behind recommendations from friends and family.

Health-themed ads resonate strongest with Chinese consumers.

SHANGHAI – October 27, 2015 – In China, as well as globally, the prevailent notion is that three factors form the foundation of a successful ad campaign: Reach, Resonance and Reaction. Reach the right audience and ensure your advertising resonates positively so you can generate the desired reaction. Sounds simple but the recent Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Survey uncovered some surprising findings. The Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Survey polled 30,000 online respondents in 60 countries to gauge consumer sentiment towards 19 forms of paid, earned and owned advertising mediums.

While there isn’t one simple rule for maximizing advertising effectiveness in such a saturated market, understanding how consumers feel about the ads served on the various media platforms they use every day is a good place to start.

“While advertisers have started to follow consumers online, about a third of online advertising campaigns don’t work—they don’t generate awareness or drive any lift in purchase intent,” said Del Levin, vice-president of Nielsen China’s Marketing Effectiveness practice. “As consumers are in control of how they consume content and interact with brands more than ever, understanding ad resonance across screens is the only way to successfully drive memorability and brand lift today.”


The most credible form of advertising in China comes straight from the people consumers know and trust. More than eight-in-10 Chinese respondents (85%) say they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family. However,  trust isn’t confined only to those in their inner circle. In fact, seven-in-10 (70%) say they trust editorial content, such as newspaper articles and more than two-thirds (68%) of respondents say they trust consumer opinions posted online—the third and fourth-highest forms of trusted advertising respectively.

“The power of word-of-mouth and opinion is clear. Especially in digital formats, as they offer many advantages for achieving effective reach,” said Levin. “But few brands have mastered online word-of-mouth marketing techniques, the results of which can go viral very quickly. Passionate brand advocates can be powerful allies to amplify your message, but you need to give them a reason to talk. Evolve the relationship from a one-way sales pitch to a two-way conversation. And be transparent and accountable.”

Owned (brand-managed) online channels are also among the most trusted advertising formats in China. In fact, branded websites are the second-most-trusted format, with 81% of Chinese respondents saying they completely or somewhat trust these sites. In addition, more than half of respondents (57%) trust emails they signed up for. 


Despite continued media fragmentation, the proliferation of online formats has not eroded trust in traditional (offline) paid channels. TV, newspapers and magazines remain trusted advertising formats. Two-thirds of Chinese respondents say they completely or somewhat trust TV ads (66%). Slightly fewer trust ads in magazines (61%) and newspapers (59%).

In terms of paid online and mobile ads, over half of Chinese respondents say they completely or somewhat trust online videos ads (54%) and mobile advertising (53%), but numbers are slightly lower in regards to ads on social networks (49%), online banner ads (47%), and ads served in search engine results (46%). Over four-in-10 say they trust mobile text ads (43%).

“Digital ads can offer considerable benefits—such as precision-focused campaigns, in-flight adjustments and more creative options—while we can see that trust is strong for both digital and traditional. Marketers should consider a mix of both online and offline channels for the best ROI,” said Levin.


Trust and action are clearly linked, but is credibility a prerequisite to purchasing? The data suggests not always: Even lower-trust formats can be extremely effective in driving consumers to the point of purchase. For many formats, self-reported action actually exceeds trust. That is, more consumers say they take action than find the ad trustworthy. This is particularly true for online and mobile formats.

The percentage of Chinese respondents that take action on the opinions of friends and family (87%) is higher than the percentage that says they trust the opinions of these same friends and family (85% each). Similarly, self-reported action (73%) is higher than trust (68%) for consumer opinions posted online.

Self-reported action exceeds trust by more than double digits for ads served in search engine results (46% trust; 57% take action). Ads on social media (49% trust; 58% take action) and text ads on mobile phones (43% trust; 51% take action) also have high discrepancy between trust and action.

“The formats where action exceeds trust by the greatest margin share a common attribute: easy access to products or services,” said Levin. “You like it, you buy it. Online and mobile formats make it exceptionally easy for consumers to live in the moment and take quick action on the advertisement. Often, consumers simply click a link and they’re directed to a place where they can receive more information or purchase the item.”­


Successful marketing campaigns require identifying the right channel and also delivering the right message. Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience research shows highly successful ads score well on three dimensions: attention, conversion to long-term memory and emotional engagement. How can marketers ensure their ads stand out on these factors? A key element is knowing how to connect their audience with messages that resonate most.

Ads that are health-themed resonate most powerfully with Chinese consumers, and were selected by 50% of respondents. Health and safety are a top-of-mind concerns for Chinese consumers, so it’s no surprise that ads in this category score highly. Ads that depict real-life situations were second most impactful, with 43% of respondents saying these ads resonate with them. Consumer neuroscience research on learning and memory shows that employing familiar themes is extremely useful in driving memorability. 

“Best-in-class ads share several characteristics: they’re relatable, follow an upbeat and simple storyline, and make an emotional connection,” said Levin. “These characteristics provide a strong foundation for creative development, but there’s no ‘one-size-fits all’ formula. Health is a primary concern for many Chinese consumers, while other western markets see humour as a necessity for an effective ad.”


The Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Survey polled 30,000 online respondents in 60 countries to gauge consumer sentiment in 19 forms of paid, earned and owned advertising mediums. The results identify the ad formats resonating most strongly with consumers and those that have room to grow. Importantly, consumers around the world weigh in on the platforms most effective in driving action. Consumers also tell us the types of messages they most enjoy—and not surprisingly, they differ by generation.


Nielsen N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global performance management company that provides a comprehensive understanding of what consumers Watch and Buy. Nielsen’s Watch segment provides media and advertising clients with Total Audience measurement services across all devices where content—video, audio and text—is consumed. The Buy segment offers consumer packaged goods manufacturers and retailers the industry’s only global view of retail performance measurement. By integrating information from its Watch and Buy segments and other data sources, Nielsen provides its clients with both world-class measurement as well as analytics that help improve performance.  Nielsen, an S&P 500 company, has operations in over 100 countries that cover more than 90% of the world’s population. For more information, visit


Edith Li +8623269219