The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) held its annual meeting this past week. I wasn’t there, but thanks to the reporting here on MediaPost, I could follow along just fine.
Let me start by stating that when I had the privilege of working with the late Simon Broadbent in the U.K. on a predictive analytics model for our then-client Kellogg’s, the advertising effectiveness research bug bit me firmly in the you-know-what.
I was young back then, and Simon showed me the predictive power of market modeling. My role was to collect data on all manner of sources like media reach and frequency, spot length, promotional efforts by the brand, creative scores for the ads we ran, as well as weather data. He then put all of this into a massive spreadsheet, worked his magic, and “boom”: There was a recommendation (in ranges) on how to plan out the next wave of advertising. Or how to determine optimal spend levels. It inspired and intrigued me to no end.
I will never forget a few critical lessons I learned from that work.
First: Data matters, and quality and relevance trumps quantity.
Second: Promotional advertising (spending behind promotions, as well as running price-based in-store promotions) can have a short-term effect, but does not have an impact for the longer term. In fact, it can harm the brand over the long term.
Third: Reach matters, and the more people you reach within your target, the stronger the impact on your brand.
Fourth: Frequency matters, in that you want to manage the frequency you put in front of your audience. Buying more reach is typically more effective than buying more frequency.
Fifth: Weather matters. If the weather is cold and crappy, people eat less cold cereals, no matter how much you advertise them.
And finally (and importantly!): Creative matters. Strong, engaging creative can deliver a stronger punch with equal weight versus crappy, uninspired creative. That last point was in a way demonstrated over the last few weeks by Accenture’s acquisition of Droga5.
The ARF had Les Binet on stage. He is the head of effectiveness at London’s Adam & Eve/DDB, and to my mind currently the best and most interesting authority on advertising effectiveness. You can find the summary of his presentation here on MediaPost. Or just Google Les Binet and spend some time reviewing his full presentations.
The ARF was also in the news recently because fellow MediaPost columnist Dave Morgan, founder and CEO of Simulmedia, publicly resigned from its board. The ARF has, according to critics like Dave, not done enough and not acted fast enough to address the significant and tumultuous changes affecting the ad industry. And herein lies the challenge for the ARF.
Dave Morgan writes, “I believe the organization [the ARF] needs to be bold and singularly focused on helping advertisers prove that advertising works -- and fixing its measurement in a world that has rapidly become digital and omnichannel.”
Others will say the ARF needs to focus on media impact and effectiveness, or the impact of digital exposures as part of a media plan. The ARF serves literally a who’s who across marketers, advertising agencies, (digital) media companies, research companies, consultancies and even academia.
Trying to agree on what constitutes “effectiveness” is probably an impossibility.
I think the work that Les Binet and the U.K.’s Institute of Practitioners in Advertising are doing comes closest to that task.