Friday, November 17, 2006

Does advertising work?

A couple of months ago Seth Stevenson, Slate's advertising watcher, reviewed a new marketing book titled What Sticks: Why Most Advertising Fails and How to Guarantee Yours Succeeds, by Rex Briggs and Greg Stuart.

His opening:

Every book ever written about marketing will at some point dig up that old, familiar line: "I know half my advertising is wasted—I just don't know which half."

The quote shows up as expected (right off the bat, on Page 12) in the newly released What Sticks, by Rex Briggs and Greg Stuart. But while most authors treat this chestnut as a sad-but-true statement on the nature of the ad game, Briggs and Stuart (two marketing consultants) treat it more like a challenge. They argue that you can determine precisely which half of your advertising is wasted, if you'll just put in the effort. (Oh, and by the way, it's not really half. More like 37.3 percent, by their calculations.)

The underlying premise of What Sticks is that for too long, marketing has escaped hardheaded analysis. It's become (to use Briggs and Stuart's words) "illogical" and "faith-based."

Interesting enough stuff, but here is the paragraph that caught my eye:

Consider the book's recommendations on media mix. Based on their research, Briggs and Stuart argue that an advertising message heard three different times in a single medium (for example, a television commercial you see three times) will be far less effective than a message experienced one time apiece in three different media (for example, as a TV commercial, then as a print ad, and then as an online banner ad). The numbers prove beyond doubt that this "surround-sound" approach is a winner. A few other data-based findings: It's generally better to show your product name and logo for the duration of an ad, not just at the very end. (Though Nike, famous for revealing the Swoosh logo only in the last moments of its TV spots, might disagree.) Also, the time of day can have a profound effect on a consumer's response to an ad (e.g., a McDonald's ad airing at lunchtime will be far more productive than one airing in the evening). And finally, online ads (and particularly large, intrusive ones) are far more effective than most people realize.

Click here to read Stevenson's review.

--Marshal Zeringue