New York, NY – November 15, 2022 – MAGNA Media Trials, in collaboration with brand suitability leader Zefr, released a new study today that examines the impact of misinformation on consumers and brands. Voices on Misinformation takes an in-depth look at consumer sentiment and perceptions of misinformation and identifies how people are dealing with it in their daily lives. Further, the study highlights the potential impact on brands thought to be associated with misinformation.
Voices on Misinformation found that consumers continue to be exposed to a high-volume of misinformation, and a majority view this as increasing over time (82%). Approximately 7 out of 10 people agree that misinformation is “an issue” and that it is also getting “out of control.”
The study found that misinformation transcends the political divide, as respondents representing a variety of political affiliations agreed on many key issues. Across media types, people reported they encounter misinformation the most on social media (94 over index), followed by television (57 over index).
As people are increasingly exposed to misinformation, they have also become equally savvy in identifying it. Most study participants (83%) claimed to incorporate at least four signals to identify misinformation on their own, demonstrating the significant legwork people undertake to effectively vet content. That said, while many people are actively vetting the content sources they view, they aren’t as engaged with combating misinformation once they’ve encountered it. A vast majority of participants (78%) reported they simply ignore misinformation when they see it.
For brands investing millions in advertising to establish their reputations, association with misinformation poses a significant risk. Among participants surveyed, 63% saw agreed that misinformation would have a negative impact on how they viewed the brand. As a result, brands are likely to see a loss across key performance indicators.
Given the current political climate, consumers expect brands to take a more proactive stance on combating misinformation. A majority of respondents expressed the desire to see brands “take responsibility when associated with misinformation” (87%), as well as “make every effort to avoid being next to misinformation” (86%). These findings suggest consumers are more discerning and critical when it comes to the type of content brands associate themselves with—a clear signal to advertisers on the need to adopt proactive strategies to avoid misinformation.
“Zefr’s mission to defund misinformation continues with our latest partnership with MAGNA and our joint research on its impact to consumers via platforms and their advertisers,” said Christopher Murphy, SVP of Global Business Development, Zefr. “It’s clear the time is now for brands to demand third-party verification for misinformation and help protect their long-term brand values as well as their short-term business results. Zefr looks forward to our continued partnership with platforms, brands, and agencies on this key issue.”
“In a fractured news environment, 93% of respondents told us they view misinformation as being ubiquitous, and while they’ve developed skills to identify it, our study revealed that consumers are not reporting it, which puts even more responsibility on brands to be aware of ad environments,” said Elijah Harris, EVP Global Digital Partnerships & Media Responsibility at MAGNA. “A resounding 87% of respondents told us they expect brands to take responsibility for misinformation, and combatting it is becoming a critical industry issue of our time.”
Voices on Misinformation key takeaways:
• Consumers under report misinformation. Only 23% of study participants revealed they contact the platform when they see misinformation. This is concerning, as many platforms rely in part on consumer reporting to assess and address misinformation on their sites. This finding suggests that the data platforms have on misinformation may be inaccurate and might require the assistance of third parties to effectively vet content.
• Author is a far less important signal than content for identifying misinformation. While many platforms use the author of the content as an indicator of misinformation, most consumers use the content itself as a signal for misinformation (23 over index). In fact, vetting a piece of content based on the author was one of the least-used signals (33 under index) among surveyed respondents.
• Brands thought to support misinformation take a hit to their bottom line. Brands appearing next to misinformation content face more than just reputational risks—there are also negative implications for advertisers’ financial bottom line, KPIs, and future growth. According to the study, 50% of consumers reported they were less likely to purchase from, and 51% reported they were unlikely to search for brands perceived as supporting misinformation.
• Misinformation is an issue everyone can agree on. The study discovered that political ideology does not necessarily shape opinions when it comes to issues around misinformation. Left-learning (72%), right-leaning (73%), in the middle (66%), and apolitical (66%) identifying respondents all agreed within a similar survey range that misinformation is “out of control.”
Magna conducted focus groups with individuals across the United States as well as surveyed 2,045 people online, with geographic, demographic and political diversity, for the report.
The full study is available here.
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Zefr is the global leader in brand suitability targeting and measurement across walled garden environments. Zefr’s products put brands in control of their content adjacency on scaled platforms including YouTube, Meta and TikTok, based on brand and industry standards like the Global Alliance of Responsible Media (GARM) framework.
Rather than rely on keywords, Zefr leverages a patented Cognition AI technology to offer brands and agencies more accurate and transparent targeting and measurement solutions on scaled platforms. The company is headquartered in Los Angeles, California, with offices in New York, Chicago, London, Brazil, and Dubai. For more information, go to: http://zefr.com.
Vice President, Global Corporate Communications