Holy Grail with Flaws

By Mitchell, Alan | Management Today, March 1998 | Go to article overview

Holy Grail with Flaws


Mitchell, Alan, Management Today


Marketers are divided over new ways of compiling data on the relationship between the ads that a sample of consumers see on TV and the brands they buy each week.

For marketers, single source data looked like a dream come true. For decades, they have been agonising about which half of their advertising budget works by how much and where, but information has never really been to hand to let them get a grip on the answer. Recently, however, new technologies in the form of so-called 'single source' data have promised to realise that dream. This should be of huge value to a wide range of brands including big names such as Ariel and Persil soap powders, Nescafe coffee or pet foods such as Whiskas or Chum.

Single source researchers use fancy widgets to gather data on exactly which ads a sample group of consumers actually see (or don't see) on television and exactly what brands the same consumers buy each week, thus allowing researchers to analyse the relationship between the two. It has only really taken off in the last two years but it's already setting that cat among the pigeons.

Markets that once seemed highly stable, with the brand shares of main competitors hardly shifting at all from year to year, are revealing astonishing levels of sales volatility from week to week. And analysis of consumers' actual behaviour suggests that, despite everything they say, they are influenced by the ads they see - enough of them go out to buy the brands they see advertised to produce immediate, measurable sales results. A recent study of over 50 brands by Andrew Roberts, technical director at UK research firm Taylor Nelson AGB, shows that, on average, sales increased by 6.1% after an ad was aired, for example, and most of this sales effect occurred within three days of consumers seeing the ad in question.

Even more startling is research from the US, which suggests that many advertisers are wasting enormous amounts of money by making two simple mistakes. …

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