Monday, 3 December 2012

Barriers to Great Advertising

Advertising testing could provide a reliable feedback loop and lead to much better advertising, but many obstacles stand in the way. The first great barrier to better advertising is self-delusion. Most of us believe, in our heart-of-hearts, that we know what good advertising is and that there is no need for any kind of independent, objective evaluation. Agencies and clients alike often think that they know how to create and judge good advertising. Besides, once agencies and clients start to fall in love with the new creative, they quickly lose interest in any objective evaluation. No need for advertising testing. Case closed.

Strangely, after 40 years of testing advertising, we cannot tell you if a commercial is any good or not, just by viewing it. Sure, we have opinions, but they are almost always wrong. In our experience, advertising agencies and their clients are just as inept at judging advertising as we are. It seems that none of us is smart enough to see advertising through the eyes of the target audience, based purely on our own judgment.

A second barrier to better advertising is the belief that sales performance will tell if the advertising is working. Unless the sales response to the advertising is immediate and overwhelming, it is almost impossible to use sales data to judge the effectiveness of the advertising. So many variables are beyond our control, as noted, that it’s impossible to isolate the effects of media advertising alone. Moreover, some advertising works in a few weeks, while other advertising might take many months to show positive effects, and this delayed response can confound our efforts to read the sales data. Also, advertising often has short-term effects that sales data might reflect, and long-term (years later) effects that most of us might easily overlook in subsequent sales data. Because of these limitations, sales data tends to be confusing and unreliable as an indicator of advertising effectiveness.

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