Yes, but Does It Work?

Slate reviews a new book on advertising, called What Sticks?, which scientifically analyses the effectiveness of advertising. This is a world of books on advertising which rely on pithy phrases and anecdotes, instead of hard data:

Briggs and Stuart [authors of What Sticks] examined the marketing techniques of 30 major corporations, analyzed more than $1 billion in ad spending, and studied the effect of those ads on more than 1 million consumers.I’m in no position to assess their methodology here, but they’ve at least poured their faith into research and data, not catchphrases and stories.
The book strives to find those parts of marketing that can be measured, and then to measure them. Yes, their conclusions are sometimes less than revelatory. (The first third of the book boils down to: Set specific goals for your advertising and then have regular meetings to assess your progress toward these goals.) But that’s not to say they aren’t good advice.

Consider the book’s recommendations on media mix. Based on their research, Briggs and Stuart argue that an advertising message heard three different times in a single medium (for example, a television commercial you see three times) will be far less effective than a message experienced one time apiece in three different media (for example, as a TV commercial, then as a print ad, and then as an online banner ad). The numbers prove beyond doubt that this “surround-sound” approach is a winner. A few other data-based findings: It’s generally better to show your product name and logo for the duration of an ad, not just at the very end. (Though Nike, famous for revealing the Swoosh logo only in the last moments of its TV spots, might disagree.) Also, the time of day can have a profound effect on a consumer’s response to an ad (e.g., a McDonald’s ad airing at lunchtime will be far more productive than one airing in the evening). And finally, online ads (and particularly large, intrusive ones) are far more effective than most people realize.

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