Advertising and marketing programs increase consumer confidence in the long-term health of financial services companies.

Researchers at Nielsen IAG, a unit of the Nielsen Company, New York, have published that conclusion in a summary of results from a Web-based survey of 5,500 U.S. consumers.

When Nielsen IAG surveyed investors about their own banks, insurance companies and investment firms, 55% of the investors who said they had seen more advertising for their financial institutions reported having “complete confidence” in the financial health and soundness of their financial services providers. Only 18% said they had “little or no confidence” in their providers.

However, among those who said they had seen less advertising, only 18% said they had complete confidence in their financial services providers, and 45% said they had little or no confidence in the providers.

“This research shows that ‘out of sight’ can mean ‘out of business,’” commented Richard Khaleel, an executive vice president at Nielsen IAG.

Total ad spending by insurers and other financial services companies fell to $5 billion in 2008, down 13% from the 2007 total, Nielsen says.

Insurers’ spending fell 29% in 2008, to $1.2 billion.

The situation deteriorated further in the fourth quarter of 2008: Nielsen says total ad spending by insurers and other financial services companies was 23% lower during that quarter than it was in the fourth quarter of 2007.