How do they tell if ad campaigns are successful?
January 5, 2004 3:24 PM   Subscribe

How do they tell whether a particular advertising campaign is successful? Is it as simple as before-and-after sales figures, or is there some sort of focus group/Neilsen rating system where people are like, "Hey, that goofy guy/rabbit/pop-locking babe really makes me want to buy a computer/battery/car!"? And on a related topic, why do the most annoying campaigns often seem to be the most "successful"?
posted by gottabefunky to Society & Culture (7 answers total)
Focus groups are important for judging the effects of ad campaigns (as well as for crafting them in advance). The relative success of product X in each retail outlet is also tracked and associated with the demographic profile for customers patronizing that outlet, which provides another, less direct channel of information.

And some campaigns provide their own feedback. Whenever you use a coupon, call a phone number, etc, you're letting the advertiser know exactly what ad you saw.
posted by adamrice at 3:31 PM on January 5, 2004

It depends on the goal of the ad. There's an old joke along the lines of a marketing director telling his CEO that half the ads they do that year will increase sales by 10 percent while the other half will have no impact. Well then why don't we cut the half that won't do anything asks the CEO. The marketing director replies that he would if he knew which half.

A recent trend is towards branding type ads where the goal isn't so much to increase sales of a products as it is to increase association of a product with a certain lifestyle or idea. Actually, sometimes it seems like the primary goal is probably to fill out the agencies reel with a cool ad, and success for the client is secondary, but whatever.

For that type of ad, you'd probably track with with name recognition surveys before and after the spots ran.
posted by willnot at 3:55 PM on January 5, 2004

Also, media buyers look at the efficiency of the outlets they use--I used to work in the industry and every quarter we ran reports that showed us how many people theoretically saw each ad that ran on TV (in some markets, you can run the reports monthly--depends on how often Nielsen runs their reports--smaller markets only get them quarterly). If we got less ratings points than what we bought, the stations would give us makegoods--free ads to make up the eyeballs we didn't get on our schedules.

For print ads, we'd look at circulation and how much a full page 4 color ad and how much it cost us per thousand pairs of eyeballs (the magazine placements I did were all in trade pubs, consumer pubs are slightly different). Magazines and newspapers typically have their circulations audited by one of two national associations, so the numbers you get are usually pretty decent, in terms of circulation.

For direct mail--things like coupons or whatever--a 5-7% response rate is considered to be pretty good.

Focus groups also work for gauging reaction, but I never did much with them when I worked in advertising--I placed the ads, I didn't design them.

One of the campaigns I placed media for was the Nebraska State Fair back in 2001--they had a fairly edgy (for Nebraska) campaign that made a lot of people very upset--I thought it was funny, personally. We got a lot of media attention for it (some national), but unfortunately, it didn't work--fair attendance was down that year. I'm not sure if it was the advertising or a general trend, but the advertising is a good place to put the blame in cases like that.

In other words, there's a lot of metrics out there to measure, but IMO, in the grand scheme of things, you really can't tell.
posted by eilatan at 4:22 PM on January 5, 2004

There are tons of way to measure effectiveness of ads [some of the biggies are up above] and it depends on what "effectiveness" means to you.

I used to work for a major advertiser and we measured the success/failure of an ad based on how many people called/went online from the ad. The online part was tricky since most know that anything after the .com is usually not necessary. For print/DM each vehicle had unique phone numbers. We also had something similar to what catalogers call "keycodes" which reps didn't ask for and customers didn't volunteer.

We would also use surveys to measure people's awareness and of our products/campaign continually. If people remember ed the ad that helped.

Focus groups are useful to sanity check but aren't really projectable to the target at large. After all, it is a small room full of people that had the time to come to a group for a few bucks.

There are other devices like blackout tests --- that is don't show the ad in Cleveland and see if your units still grow there like they did in markets where your ad did run.

Finally, many publications/networks will do their own quantitative research and share it with the advertiser. However, the publication might not spill the complete beans in order to keep you happy.

The posters above have the caveats pretty much down. It is really hard to measure the effectiveness on a dollar per sale basis with fickle consumers. No one cops to buying something because they liked the ad.

If you think about advertisers like Coke / Pepsi. They both have 100% name recognition yet still spend zillions on media where they don't know if it is working. Did you get a Coke because of the billboard you saw on the highway? Probably not, but Coke is covering its bases. All Coke knows is if it spends less, it will loose market share.
posted by birdherder at 4:54 PM on January 5, 2004

This is why I've spent the last 12 years and have focused my career on direct marketing: you know beyond a doubt if an ad or mailing is successful or not because you either made more money than you put into it or you didn't.

The most successful ads and sales letters I've written look ugly. Full of ad copy. Very little white space. Keying response for tracking purposes. No hesitation in asking for the order. After years of paying for 'good' looking ads and having little to show for it, I prefer the beauty of a consistently profitable but visually ugly ad. Designers and competitors hate my ads because they're ugly. Who cares, they're not giving me money anyway.

Gimme an ad that sells over one that looks pretty any day.
posted by Tacodog at 4:57 PM on January 5, 2004 [1 favorite]

Are there many people, like me, who will deliberately avoid a product or store because they find the ads annoying? Not offensive, but just stupid? I hate the current McDonald's campaign so much that I am avoiding them. I wasn't a heavy McDonald's consumer, but I did eat there once in a while. I also had a similar reaction to the Quizno's ad with the guy suckling a wolf. Not so much a deliberate boycott in that case, but-- I'm out, get hungry, look around for a place to eat, I see a Quizno's, think of that ad, feel kinda queasy, and think "Gee, wouldn't I really rather eat somewhere else?"

How many ads actually cause a downturn in sales?
posted by Shoeburyness at 5:13 PM on January 5, 2004

I have a personal policy of not buying from businesses that have annoying advertising. Despite being a total junkie, I did not eat a single foot long roasted chicken on brown during the run of the Clay Henry ads.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:11 AM on January 7, 2004

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