Consumers like 'real people' ads but prefer a laugh, research finds

The use of ordinary, real people in ads may help brands connect with the public, a study carried out for Campaign has found.

Digital insights company Toluna surveyed 1,000 UK adults about the approach to advertising that has been adopted recently by the likes of TalkTalk, McCain (above), Iceland and Nationwide.

The respondents expressed a clear preference for ads featuring ordinary real people, with 47.4% saying these resonated most with them, against 17.2% who said ads featuring celebrities did, and only 7.1% who said ads with actors.

But when it came to the type of ads they most enjoyed watching, only 23.4% named ads featuring realistic situations – less than half the number who said they enjoyed watching funny ads (61.5%).

They were also less popular than informative ads (29%) and ads that "make me think about something differently" (28.6%).

The study also revealed cynicism of brands’ ability to portray their customers realistically. Some 34.9% of respondents said that when brands portray their customers, these ads are usually unrealistic, against only 13.8% who thought they were mostly quite realistic. And more than twice as many thought they were getting less realistic (6.9%) than more (3%).

But the brands that do embrace real people in their ads can expect to be rewarded for doing so.

More than half (57.6%) said they connected more with ads featuring real people, and an even higher percentage (62.3%) agreed that a brand featuring ordinary real people was more likely to understand what its customers want.

Meanwhile, almost half (48.3%) said they were less likely to buy a brand featuring unrealistic characters in its ads.

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