What good is advertising if companies aren't trusted?
A view from Maisie McCabe

What good is advertising if companies aren't trusted?

This time 12 months ago, I was furiously rushing from the Hard Rock Cafe to Nasdaq to try to catch the best of Advertising Week XI (they love a Roman numeral, the Americans) as part of the launch of Campaign US.

This year, that task has largely been left to our growing team in New York. All the great coverage is available at Campaignlive.com.

It has been a busy week so far. Yet many of the main issues are ones that the industry has been discussing for some time. There was ad-blocking, the importance of authenticity and marketing being a force for good. Amid all the fawning over celebrities and senior execs, D&AD announced another set of awards to recognise the global impact of creative work.

Back in London, the IPA has just launched its Effectiveness Awards for next year. The awards, which have always been about measuring the commercial impact of advertising, are now also showing how it is changing the world. The new category will recognise the best commercial effectiveness for good.

It’s a clever idea to tie the awards to Tom Knox’s "here for good" agenda. But, more than that, having this prize as part of such a rigorous process might help convince naysayers that the push is more than just a fad with no commercial benefit.

Companies that put on an act will have the curtain pulled up in front of them in this brave new world

All this brings me to the crisis at Volkswagen. I cannot fathom how a proper grown-up company such as VW could have got itself into a position where it had devices manipulating emissions tests in millions of cars. If there was ever a case of a company paying lip service to an initiative without making the really big changes needed, this must be it. The fact that physical manipulation, as opposed to traders swapping notes in chat rooms, was needed just makes it far more shocking.

Each time there is one of these major scandals, it chips away at public trust, adding to the notion that companies are just out to make money and powerful people simply look after themselves. And if people don’t trust brands in the first place, what chance has advertising got?

As Nielsen found this week, the amount of people who trust traditional advertising has declined over the past two years. Yes, 56 per cent still trust TV ads, and mobile and social made marginal gains, but the overall picture is not good. No wonder they’re trying to block ads out. And there’s no comfort for journalists either as the decline in trust in editorial content was even steeper. Companies that put on an act will have the curtain pulled up in front of them in this brave new world.

And, on that note, I’m going to make a cup of tea and rewatch Adam & Eve/DDB’s new ad for Waitrose. A brand that seems to have rediscovered who it is.