COI to study public's trust in Govt ads

COI Communications plans to carry out research into whether the public is losing trust in the Government's advertising campaigns.

The move follows a warning by the IPA that the effectiveness of Whitehall campaigns could be undermined by a fall in people's trust in British institutions including the Government.

The issue has been heightened by a collapse in Tony Blair's trust ratings since the death of the government scientist Dr David Kelly.

COI bosses have not detected any problems in the feedback on individual campaigns but want to test public opinion to make sure. They are encouraged by a survey by Opinion Leader Research that found that people had faith in government campaigns because they looked at the subject matter rather than the body behind the ads.

The OLR survey was submitted to a review of the Government Information and Communications Service, which is chaired by the Guardian Media Group chief executive, Bob Phillis. It suggested that people judged government ads on the facts. One possible explanation is that Whitehall campaigns have traditionally been "lightly branded".

Although people had lost trust in the media and journalists, viewers trusted messages in television ads, partly because they believed that inaccurate commercials would not be allowed.

There was also a high level of trust in the BBC, although the work was carried out before Dr Kelly died in July amid a bitter row between Downing Street and the BBC. Some polls since then have suggested a fall in people's trust in the BBC, and the proposed COI research may test whether this has had a knock-on effect on TV commercials.

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