Obviously, I spend a lot of time reading industry news and background from a variety of global sources and books. I do this to satisfy my own need to be in the know, to learn, to be stimulated and to be exposed to ideas and opinions other than my own (and trust me, or ask my wife, I have plenty of my own!).
None of that is any different from your motivations to read this column or any other writing.
I have been reading an industry book that I found by accident, at a library book fair event. One of its chapters is devoted to measurement. Let me share some of its observations on this very topical subject:
“Often advertising seems to produce absolutely no results. An agency may capture a promising new client, devote its best skills to generating an advertising campaign, test and polish its ads until they shine with a high commercial gloss, and confidently launch the campaign only to have it disappear into silence…. The large sums spent may, for all that can be measured in sales, have just as well been donated to the Society for the Propagation of Polynesian Missionaries, or used to light the client’s cigars.
The absence of visible results is too commonplace to be surprising. But if a difficult client does hoist an eyebrow, there are dozens of ways, also tested, by which to account for it. Survey reports are usually available to show that the ads had remarkable readership, and the figures can be interpreted to show something called ‘steadily increasing penetration of the product image.' If more figures deem to be called for, there are always such meaningful barometric indices as deseasonalized department store sales, new Federal figures about the incidence of three-children families in one-family dwellings and the recent abnormal rainfall in the Mississippi Basin.
Doubts can be delicately planted about pricing, packaging, or a hidden dry rot that has begun to assail the dealers. It is possible to discourse with great persuasiveness about repetition, continuity, saturation, the need to fill consumption pipelines and that fact that Rome was not built on a single campaign.”
A few paragraphs further, it continues: “A great deal of national advertising is thus obscure not only in result but in intent – a kind of costly faith offering, spent in part to avert the misfortunes that traditionally await firms that let their advertising slide.”
The book I am quoting from is Frank Rowsome, Jr.‘s “They Laughed When I Sat Down” and was published in 1959 by McGraw-Hill. Its subtitle is “An informal history of advertising in words and pictures.”
It makes me really sad that in 19-friggin’-59 we were apparently as wise (and none the wiser) as we are today. Sure, we now have marketing mix modeling and Big Data, as well as many MBA-educated people at the helm. And I think we may have learned a few new things about why, when and how advertising works.
But let’s be honest for a moment, and tell me you haven’t used any of the arguments as listed above to explain why your marketing efforts didn’t exactly work as planned. I know I have.