Advertising Research

Unlock the Power of Advertising:

8 Steps To Creating Better Advertising

In the hands of skillful marketing executives and expert researchers, advertising gives us the power to change the world.

Advertising can:

  • Build brand awareness.
  • Set the consumer’s mental agenda (what consumers think about).
  • Communicate facts and information.
  • Change behavior through the power of suggestion.
  • Evoke strong emotions and link those emotions to the brand.
  • Create a model or ideal that consumers choose to identify with.

Advertising can change feelings, change attitudes, and change behaviors. So, how can a client, advertising agency, and research agency work together to create effective advertising?

  1. Strategy
    Sound strategy, based on facts and evidence, is essential to the creation of effective advertising.
    Good, upfront research plays a crucial role in identifying strategy possibilities. Positioning and messaging concepts can be tested among target audiences to create a map, or a blueprint, for a brand’s advertising. Strategy concepts should be developed and tested before any advertising is created.
  2. Right Target Market
    Targeting is a key element of strategy and deciding who to target is not a simple question.
    Identification of an optimal target market can be determined as a by-product of the Strategy concept testing. Who is responding most strongly to the winning Strategy concepts? We have seen great advertising campaigns fail because they were aimed at the wrong audience.
  3. Advertising Testing
    It’s best to test new creative at the storyboard or animatic stage (i.e., the rough stage) and at the final-production stage.
    Early-stage testing allows rough commercials to be tweaked and fine-tuned before you spend the big dollars on final production. Testing the finished commercials gives you extra assurance that your advertising is “on strategy” and working. Testing also provides the diagnostics to help your creative team take a marginal commercial and edit it into a much stronger commercial. Testing (or pre-testing, as it’s sometimes called) is the feedback loop that leads to constant improvement.
  4. One Testing System
    Use the same testing system consistently.
    There is no perfect advertising testing system. Some are better than others, but any system will help improve your advertising. The secret is for everyone to learn a testing system so that they fully understand how to interpret the system’s results.
  5. Competitive Benchmarking
    General normative databases are not good benchmarks to evaluate your advertising.
    Norms tend to be “too low a bar” because normative data contains many failed commercials. The long-term objective is evolving Action Standards. One way to develop good Action Standards is competitive benchmarking. Test your major competitors’ commercials, so you can make sure your advertising is better than the competitors’ advertising. Through this type of competitive benchmarking, you can begin to develop good Action Standards (i.e., test scores that will lead to increased sales).
  6. Modeling
    Use a mathematical model or scoring system that takes multiple measures into account and derives an overall score for each ad execution.
    It doesn’t matter that an ad has great persuasion if it does not register the brand name. It doesn’t matter that an ad registers the brand name if no one notices the commercial itself. An ad must attract attention, register the brand name, communicate core messages and/or images, and create interest in buying the brand. Advertising must do multiple things to be effective. All the key variables must be put together intelligently to come up with a composite model of advertising effectiveness.
  7. Human Judgement
    Look at all the ad testing results holistically.
    Review the research findings in relation to the marketing plan’s objectives. Read the open-ended questions and study the diagnostics, so that even if a commercial fails, you are learning how to make the next commercial better. Don’t blindly accept the test results. Informed human judgment remains important.
  8. Continuous Improvement
    Clients and agencies need to accept that “continuous improvement” of the advertising is the goal.
    Ad pre-testing provides a powerful feedback loop so that a brand’s advertising can become better and better over time. If a company and its agency pay close attention to the ad testing results, advertising can become a powerful platform for long-term brand growth.

Good advertising is extremely powerful, and long-term continuity of on-strategy advertising maximizes the power of advertising. We have seen brands transformed through great advertising. We have seen companies destroyed through poor advertising. Advertising works in the short-term through building awareness, educating, and setting the agenda. It works long-term through projecting a brand image and attaching strong emotions to the brand. The potential and promise of good advertising should never be underestimated.


Jerry W. Thomas

Jerry W. Thomas

Chief Executive Officer

Jerry founded Decision Analyst in September 1978. The firm has grown over the years and is now one of the largest privately held, employee-owned research agencies in North America. The firm prides itself on mastery of advanced analytics, predictive modeling to maximize learning from research studies, and the development of leading-edge analytic software.

Jerry is deeply involved in the firm’s development of new research methods and techniques and in the design of new software systems. He plays a key role in the development of Decision Analyst’s proprietary research services and related mathematical models.

Jerry describes himself as a student of marketing strategy, new product development, mathematical modeling, business survival, and economic growth. In his spare time, he likes to work on his farm in East Texas where he grows grapes, apples, pears, pecans, plums, and peaches; a forest of native trees, grasses, and insects; and wild plants of many types.

He graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington, earned his MBA at the University of Texas at Austin, and studied graduate economics at SMU.

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