Market Research: Recall vs Recognition

By Miles, Louella | Marketing, April 21, 2004 | Go to article overview

Market Research: Recall vs Recognition


Miles, Louella, Marketing


What is the most comprehensive way for companies to measure advertising effectiveness? Louella Miles investigates.

Claimed ad awareness, or recall, is a metric that has stood the test of time and is viewed worldwide as the best means of assessing advertising effectiveness.

But at the 2004 Market Research Society Conference last month, Robert Heath, founder of The Value Creation Company and research associate at University of Bath Business School, set out to illustrate an alternative.

Is it enough, he asked, for an evaluation method to continue to be used without at least looking at the alternatives? At the heart of his paper was the premise that advertising is a much more complex communication tool than of old. The message is never as simple as 'stop me and buy one', but a mixture, operating at different levels, in different ways, to different people. And what complicates the whole process is the emotions of consumers.

He points out that consumers often downplay the importance of advertising, and highlights a Cap Gemini Ernst & Young (CGE&Y) poll of US consumers in 2003, which found that 82% did not believe advertising influenced their decision to buy a car. 'Thirteen years of IPA Advertising Effectiveness Awards have proved beyond doubt that advertising affects us, whether we believe it or not,' Heath says. 'So how can consultancies such as CGE&Y make such a patently naive claim, suggesting that what consumers believe represents the sum of truth about how advertising works?'

Message or the medium?

The fault, he claims, lies in the current approach to advertising evaluation and, in particular, the case against the use of recall-based metrics.

The argument goes that advertising needs to be persuasive and attention-grabbing if it is to prove effective. But exactly what aspect of the ad?

Is it the ad itself or the message it conveys that people need to remember?

It is tough, says Heath, because often clients that regard advertising awareness as all-important will change their activity if it fails on this metric. Others, though, have the courage of their convictions.

Heath cites the example of Stella Artois: its initial press campaign, as measured by a competitor's tracking study, showed that it achieved a claimed ad awareness of just 4% in 1990, compared with 29% for the leading TV-advertised brew Castlemaine XXXX.

Stella's rating for quality on the same survey, though, was 45% compared with just 19% for Castlemaine. When all the other factors involved were studied, the advertising proved to have given it its star rating, reinforcing its ability to build strong brand values without necessarily performing well on memory-based evaluative measures.

Heath is convinced that many agencies have paid the penalty for clients that rely too heavily on claimed awareness as a measurement tool. The most famous example, he says, is that of McVitie's, back in the mid-80s, which ran a 'fantastic campaign, with fantastic sales' but dropped it after four years because the Awareness Index (AI) was not very high.

Its agency paid the price for 'failing' to get the desired cut-through.

And this is not, he says, an isolated case.

Is it sensible to place too much trust in one measure, even though it is tried and tested? Dan O'Donoghue, worldwide planning director of Publicis Worldwide, argues that attitudes are changing. His view is that the industry would be far happier to move away from advertising awareness to brand awareness.

'The problem with AI is that it is not really used in a sensible manner,' he says. 'I once said to a colleague 'This ad for brand X is absolute rubbish,' only to hear the reply, 'No, you're wrong. This year it has doubled its awareness level from 2.2 to 4.5.'

'I pointed out that the competition was getting 31.9. And that is typically how it is used - in an abstract way - as though the real world does not exist. …

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