Study: People have a hard time trusting sponsored content, prefer banner ads instead

A new study from content marketing platform Contently shows that not everyone’s on board with the idea of ads that look like articles. In fact, the majority of people feel like they’re being duped.

Between June 27 and June 30, Contently surveyed 542 U.S. internet users aged 18–65 with a 13-question online survey.

Here are the highlights of the survey:

1) Not everyone knows what sponsored content means:

From the survey, it was pretty clear that readers had a variety of definitions for what sponsored content is:

This shows that while most the readers understand the eventual purpose of the sponsored post, they don’t necessarily know who wrote it. And to be fair, these processes vary greatly across publishers, with some working very closely with brands on native content, while others leave it up entirely to the brand’s marketing people to write the whole thing. At the end, each publisher needs to convey exactly what goes into creating a sponsored post to their readers.

2) People would rather see a banner ad than a native ad:

This one’s a bit of a shocker. The much maligned banner ad still comes out on top when compared to a sneaky piece of sponsored content. 

It shows that readers prefer their ads to be ads and articles to be articles. However, just because they say they do in a survey, doesn’t mean that actually reflects their real reading habits.

3) People feel deceived when they find out an article is sponsored content.

Most people felt tricked when they read an article and found out it was written or produced by an advertiser:

Ultimately, sponsored content has a trust problem, which is that it is being placed in an area where people want to read articles generated by independent thought, not a commercial agenda.

4) People with more education felt more deceived by sponsored content.

The plot thickens! Turns out the more education you receive, the more likely you are to resent having to consumer sponsored content. People with graduate degrees reportedly felt more deceived than people with only high school degrees.

It appears that older, more educated people are savvier about the content they consume, and are more likely to be wary of brand promotion creeping into their online reading. 

5) Millennials however, don’t mind it as much.

There is some good news for publishers though, the next generation of content readers will have grown up in a world where sponsored content is the norm, and they don’t have as much of a problem with it. In fact, compared to older age groups, millennials don’t think a site loses that much credibility with sponsored content.

Check out the rest of Contently’s insights from its survey here.

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