Measuring Advertising Effectiveness

By William D. Wells | Go to book overview

Comments on Chapter 3

Larry Percy Marketing Communications Consultant

The ideas explored in chapter 3 have enormous potential for advertisers. A demonstration that advertising may not need to be consciously or "attentively" processed to elicit a positive response to the brand means that advertising is probably more effective than most people think, not less. Although a number of practical problems get in the way of measuring such effects for real-world advertising, this should not obviate the importance of the issue being studied.

Unfortunately, the chapter is loaded with just the sort of thing that leads managers to conclude that "pure research" is of no practical use. For example, the extremely small sample size is likely to attract a manager's attention. This point is aggravated by the authors saying early in the chapter that "more work is needed before conclusions can be reached" (p. 29) from earlier research that used samples of "only 9," when some of the analysis in this study is based on a sample of only 16. We can also hear managers objecting that the contrived presentation of the stimulus ads is not it real," or pointing out that many of the hypotheses remained partially supported at best.

The problem is that most practitioners are so conditioned to asking questions and expecting simple answers that they have little or no interest in looking beyond to understand what may be causing the answer. Although managers do not need to conduct this type of research themselves, it is critical that they be encouraged to look beyond their criticism of academic research, and begin to appreciate the issues being explored.

In this case, the issue being explored is important to anyone making decisions about advertising. The implication of the research is that advertising (at least most print advertising) is going to register and communicate something as long as a person is exposed to the visual field that contains the advertising (e.g., the page of a newspaper or magazine), even if that person's attention is held by other material in that visual field. Although that "something" may not be that the brand has a special feature, it could very well be a simple positive response to the brand. Wouldn't it be great if we actually generate significant positive feelings toward our brands among their target market even if they do not consciously attend to and process our message? This would mean that current measures of advertising effectiveness are underestimating advertising's utility.

Interestingly, a great deal of related work ( Kroeber-Riel, 1988, 1993; Percy, 1993; Ruge, 1988) suggests that one need not actually fully attend to advertising for that advertising to have a positive effect. Kroeber-Riel especially felt that visual images, when appropriately and uniquely matched to a brand and its

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