Advertising has to work harder

Mike GaddPresidentGadd International Research, TorontoIn this special report, we look at television audience research from a different angle.Rather than focus on tv programming, we are concentrating on what happens between the programs - the commercials.With the help of research consultants and...

Mike Gadd


Gadd International Research, Toronto

In this special report, we look at television audience research from a different angle.

Rather than focus on tv programming, we are concentrating on what happens between the programs – the commercials.

With the help of research consultants and suppliers, we have compiled what we hope is a comprehensive list of the proprietary television commercial testing techniques available in Canada.

We have also asked a number of research suppliers, in telephone interviews, to respond to a couple of fairly broad questions.

First, we asked them to describe the attitude that Canadian viewers are bringing to tv commercials today.

Then we asked them, on the basis of what they are hearing from consumers in their research, what advice they would offer advertisers and their agencies to help them make their advertising more effective.

The edited remarks of six of these suppliers start on this page.

The report continues to page 24.

Attitudes towards television advertising have not changed appreciably over the past 30 years or so.

But the media have changed. There are far more tv stations, there are all kinds of things now that are competing for our time.

Whatever else we hear or read about changing educational standards, the reality is that the television viewing audience is now far more sophisticated and demanding.

Generations have grown up with tv and now have the ability to understand, accept or reject messages, promises, images and so forth quickly.

The advent of converters, computers, fax machines, and an increased sense of urgency has compounded this change of attitude. We all complain of not having enough time.

Basically, advertising has to work a lot harder now than it ever had to before.

Involvement, then, is the No. 1 key consideration. Just how you involve that person depends on what that brand is all about – that is, its brand equity.

How, when and why the category is consumed; the promise – why is it better than other brands; and what I describe as the genius of the advertising sizzle.

If you are No. 1 in the market and have been for years, you can probably afford to be image-based. If you are, relatively speaking, the new kid in town, maybe you have to be a little bit more strident in your advertising to be seen and heard.

I work in a range of categories, and the communications that are associated with each category are quite different, simply because the brand positioning within each category is different, category consumption is different. And this is the essence of what good advertising should be all about. It should be related to a particular brand’s circumstances.

First of all, it’s important to understand the brand’s equity, how the category is consumed and the promise – the point of difference for the brand. But this all has to be figured out before the advertising is developed.

Advertisers and agencies can learn together from tv commercial research what is communicated about the brand’s equity, and whether the underlying proposition is understood and believed, and how compelling or arresting (the creative execution) is.

We developed Inter-Ad with these thoughts in mind to find out how involved viewers are with advertising and to explain why.

Does it entertain them, does it make them feel good, can they identify with the character or sentiments communicated, does it tell them anything new or make them think about the brand in a different way?

From a philosophical point of view, what we are trying to do is measure involvement. And involvement can mean a number of different things. Involvement can mean you like something, or you have been persuaded by something, or simply that it strikes a responsive chord.

The message is going to vary, depending on the nature of the brand. If it’s a brand new launch of a new product, the No. 1 thing you want to do is establish the name of the brand. It has to stand out, it has to be memorable, it has to communicate the brand name.

For an established brand, it is simply to reinforce positive beliefs associated with the product.

I think it’s very easy to come up with an advertising model, and over the years, many people have attempted to do that, in terms of what constitutes effective advertising, but effective advertising for the best-known brand of breakfast cereals is likely to be completely different than for effective advertising for a brand new car.

Some similarities

There are some similarities. You might want to have particularly memorable advertising, for example.

But beyond that, the advertising objectives are going to be quite different, the purchase situations are going to be completely different, the messages are going to be completely different.

So I think it’s important to develop a strategy and then evaluate the effectiveness of the advertising based on that strategy, rather than use very general, non-specific models.

There are many fads and fashions and models. Twenty years ago, likability was supposed to be the most important aspect of advertising, and then it was persuasiveness. It’s likability again now.

If you look at the history of advertising and advertising research, you will find there have been different thoughts all the way through the process.