Correct ad usage is key to success

Recent research by Carat Insight shows millions of pounds could be saved if advertisers used the right medium to target consumers.

British advertisers are past masters at producing advertising to entice ad avoiders and rejecters. Ranging from humorous ads such as Heineken, to the offbeat Tango ads, creatives and media planners have managed to entice these difficult consumers.

Yet, although the advertising industry has been aware of those who avoid watching ads for decades and has used humour, puzzles and language games to break down defences, little has been written about those who are most receptive to advertising messages.

As a consequence, says Carat Insight managing director Phil Gullen, advertisers have wasted millions of pounds each year using media that does not reach the most receptive consumers. He argues that certain sectors are wasting money by placing the wrong style of advertising in the wrong communication vehicle at the wrong weight.

These sympathetic consumers, whom Gullen terms “seekers” and “reactors”, form part of the attitudinal groups who are most likely to convert ad messages into sales.

Seekers are those who actively seek out advertising in a particular product category and act on it. “Only one in eight of a typical target group is a seeker and yet seekers typically account for over one-third of people who are more likely to buy or consider a brand as a result of seeing advertising,” he says. Seekers are most susceptible to straightforward persuasive advertising messages, such as sales response – DRTV – and demonstration ads, such as Head & Shoulders.

Carat’s research indicates that seekers can respond to advertising after only one or two exposures and can be targeted with lighter-weight campaigns.

Reactors do not seek advertising, but do react to it. They are less interested in the product field’s advertising, but will respond to higher levels of advertising.

The research, conducted by BMRB for Carat Insight from a sample of 1,977, took place between January 9 and 15 this year.

Among the sectors that tended to have a high number of seekers for their TV advertising is package holidays, which recorded 28 per cent.

Carat believes there can be greater rewards from finding the people who will most readily respond to advertising. “If you are lucky enough to be advertising a product with many seekers then, so long as the creative work is right, success can be achieved with a low budget,” he says.

Gullen argues that these differences call for different weights in media spend and different creative advertising treatments.

TV can deliver twice as much ad awareness as newspapers. But awareness is often not the best measure of effectiveness. In some circumstances, newspapers can have more influence than TV, despite lower recall.

For instance, ads for Thomson Holidays had recall levels of 45 per cent from the TV campaign (for those certain that they had seen it), compared with just 18 per cent from the newspaper ads. Newspapers had a net influence of 16 per cent of those that saw the ads, compared with a net influence of ten per cent for TV.

Carat concludes: “The Thomson press campaign had the same effect as the TV campaign but cost about a quarter of the budget.”

Carat also points out that TV ads can be wasted: “The intrusive nature of TV means that far more rejecters will see the advertising even though they do not want to. The result is higher awareness but not necessarily greater effectiveness.”

TV may be good for targeting the high number of ad reactors in the car market – 58 per cent – but less good at targeting car advertising seekers. The research also showed that in motor cars, there are proportionately more press ad seekers than TV. Newspapers and magazines had a combined 45 per cent of car ad seekers, compared with just 14 per cent for TV.

The research also compared weight of advertising spend for the four weeks before the research, using MMS figures.

It showed that some very light-weight advertising campaigns – those that spent less than 300,000 – had very high success rates. One magazine campaign for a car achieved a total awareness of 43 per cent and a net increase in the propensity to buy the brand of 14 per cent. A holiday newspaper campaign achieved awareness of 46 per cent but in net effectiveness terms, 16 per cent of consumers were more likely to consider a holiday with the company.

Gullen says these figures compare favourably with many heavyweight TV advertising campaigns that may achieve awareness levels of 80 per cent but only stimulate about one per cent to act.

In Carat’s research, some brands enjoyed no net increase whatsoever. One retailer, which spent between 1.5m and 2.1m in newspapers, had no net increase in people willing to consider the brand.

One car campaign, for the Renault Mégane, which spent between 900,000 and 1.5m on TV, produced no net increase in people considering buying the car.

However, some of this may be attributable to poor creative treatments. Foster’s lager spent the same figure on a TV campaign which had a negative effect on consumers, despite achieving 71 per cent awareness. Of those, four per cent said they were more likely to buy the product, but ten per cent less. The same lager’s radio campaign achieved a net negative rating of four per cent.

The problem is magnified when considering how many consumers reject or ignore ads in certain categories. Chocolate and cold and flu consumers overwhelmingly reject or ignore all forms of advertising, according to the research.

But some consumers’ resistance is specific to one medium. For instance, food retailers do very badly on national newspapers. Sixty eight per cent of respondents rejected or ignored food retailer ads in national newspapers. This compares with 54 per cent for package holidays and 55 per cent for motor cars.

These figures may indicate some of the reasons why Safeway considered pulling its ads from the national press (MW March 21).

With an increasing number of advertisers needing to justify media spend, targeting ad avoiders may be an expensive luxury. Carat’s analysis could allow the seekers to call the tune.

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