Trust in advertising.

OCADU 2020 Thesis

by Braeden Meck

For my thesis I chose to tackle the trust crisis affecting consumers globally. In Canada, that crisis manifests in a disparity between the classes; your personal trust in advertising tends to be linked to personal wealth and education levels. I wanted to reduce this trust disparity by engaging and educating consumers who may fall in a lower socio-economic class.

Given the similarities between consumer attitudes towards advertising and mass media, I looked to existing news literacy research to determine a potential solution. Recent studies have shown that fostering healthy skepticism in news consumers is key to forming trust and appearing honest.

Skepticism is a more active form of engagement; encouraging questioning gives consumers a greater sense of control and deepens their relationship with advertisers. I wrote an early research proposal where I explored 2 potential solutions: either we could engage consumers by increasing their interest in reporting misleading ads, or we could introduce a design nudge that would encourage consumers to consider the validity of the ads they see. 


For my campaign I focused on the latter, creating a series of PSAs encouraging consumers to "think outside the box" and engage more skeptically with the advertised world around them.

The Campaign

I began with a photo series depicting 4 main categories of advertising that are commonly criticized;


Beauty, Athletic/Fashion, Food, Education. Each photo is carefully lit to allow the foreground to be filled with the lights themselves, reflecting on some of the things affecting the shot that consumers typically don't consider.

Beauty Spoof
Education Spoof


I then transformed the photos into a digital campaign, demystifying some of the photographic tricks, encouraging consumers to reflect on what they can't see in their ads, and pushing consumers towards the new educational site.


Lastly, I developed a microsite designed to be the ultimate tool to educate and develop trust with consumers. 


The site features a live stream of youtube videos offering BTS looks into advertising, a surprisingly well-loved genre and thriving youtube community.

A redesigned reporting form could dramatically increase instances of reported ads, with an up-to-date list of recent reports made and their status. Consumers will feel confident that their voices are being heard with the ability to browse their, and other, complaints.

Lastly, fresh content like a blog or youtube videos can give a human face to Ad Standards and inform consumers of decisions we've made and why we made them. Want a sample?

Sample Video!

In case you couldn't imagine the original content that could hold a prominent role in developing relationships with our consumer, here's an example! It's far too long, I definitely can't recommend watching. 

Thank you!