The business model of the internet is built on trust. It runs on a series of free to use services that we trust enough to share our information with, through personal profiles, shopping/website choices and searches – in exchange for their nigh on indispensable services.


But there is a problem with the model: we don’t really trust the internet and, further, we don’t trust online advertising as much as offline advertising.


Most of us knew that we gave significant amounts of information to Facebook, Google et al so they could provide a better platform to advertisers (as well as a free service to us), but now we also know that that wasn’t the end of the great privacy giveaway. In part thanks (or not depending on your point of view) to the Snowdon revelations, we now realise that information previously thought private is no such thing.


Far less data, historically at least, was given away in the offline world, and as such it is perhaps no surprise that we trust non-internet adverts more than internet based adverts, especially those that might rely on apparently underhand* or unseen methods to reach the audience.


But what is the modern brand to do? Throw more money at their online channels to offset that wasted by the trust deficit? Pretend the last twenty years haven’t happened and switch off their digital strategy?


As a bare minimum, a holistic, practical approach to on and offline media planning is necessary, taking into consideration the relative lack of trust in online ads and, conversely, the huge range of strengths of online advertising. But the brands who really understand today’s media landscape are rewriting their whole approach to customer engagement – from advertising to customer care, creating a joined up philosophy that impacts on every single engagement the customer has with the brand. Useful (repeatable and shareable) interactions of all forms, from viewing a billboard, responding to a Tweet or going to a sponsored gig, are what matter and what should drive the marketing strategy of brands.


Brand awareness and customer acquisition will always remain part of the game, but any brand that focuses on these aspects without considering every interaction, and how it traverses the media landscape, as part of the process misses out on an opportunity to engage with audiences, to build trust and to enable customers to become brand advocates. After all, the form of advertising we trust best is a recommendation from people we know. Now that is something the internet can do.


* On a side note, perceived ‘underhand’ adverts come with an almost mythical fear factor for consumers. See the banning of subliminal advertising, regardless of how ineffective it is.