Is honest advertising really what consumers want?

Red blood, poignant poetry and unshaved legs. How honesty is changing advertising?

Fake news. Russian bots. Underhand election campaigns. The headlines are familiar – as are the unfolding repercussions. So it’s no surprise that we’re facing a sweeping consumer trust crisis.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer (the industry standard for consumer trust figures), trust in NGOs, media, government and business remains at an all time low.

In fact, the UK has an average trust level of just 39%, putting us in the bottom five of all 28 nations surveyed in the report – three points above Russia at the very bottom of the barometer.


So what does this mean for marketers and advertising?

Well, we’re seeing brands in a whole range of categories working to be more authentic and transparent, in the hope of reconnecting with their audiences.

In banking, one of the least trusted sectors, Nationwide are using ‘real’ people in their “Voices” campaign, and Natwest running with the line “we are what we do”.

The recent Maltesers spots “Celebrated by Similarities”, show a more honest reflection of society, including older women who are usually not represented in advertising at all.

And Tesco’s Cannes-Grand-Prix-winning campaign, “Food Love Stories”, draws on the favourite recipes of the general public. An approach which has made it Tesco’s most successful campaign to date.


Authenticity in the beauty industry

But perhaps the most dramatic shift towards honesty is in the health and beauty industry.

Sure, Dove’s Real Beauty campaigns have been leading the way in this area for some time. But more recently, some brands have gone another step forward by breaking taboos, as well as convention.

Bodyform’s much-lauded ‘Blood Normal’ campaign (another Cannes Grand Prix winner), was the first advert in the UK to depict menstrual blood rather than the blue liquid equivalent.

While new beauty brand, Billie, has just launched a social film showing razors doing their actual job: removing hair.

Bravo Billie. You have finally spared women the patronising experience of watching razors running over already-shaved legs.


Aspiration Vs transparency

So, what happened to showing the aspirational in advertising? Can’t we just dream a little?

It’s a tough one.

In our current climate, consumers are distrusting, or even rolling their eyes at brands who show a world so far from their own reality. But that said, audiences don’t necessarily want to see extreme warts-and-all advertising either.

They simply want brands to be straight with them, and to show a much deeper understanding of their challenges and lives.
They want honesty and understanding, beautifully delivered.

Sign up to our newsletter now

Stay up to date with all our insights. We’ll also give you access to our event videos.

We’ll use your information for the purpose of our newsletter, to occasionally invite you to our events, and send you other relevant information.


Data Science in the real world