Step 7

How can I tell if my advertising is working?

The purpose of advertising is usually to generate an immediate sales uplift and/or build brand memorability that will have a positive influence on sales in the long-term. Ideally, of course, the additional profit created by the advertising will be greater than the media investment and the cost of developing it. So, you need to measure sales uplift in order to determine if your advertising is working or not.

The impact of advertising on immediate sales can often be measured fairly accurately – for example by comparing advertised and non-advertised periods or regions. But don’t forget to take into account the sales effects of any sales promotions, because they tend to have a much bigger immediate impact than advertising.

Measuring the long-term sales benefit of advertising can be harder. Although there is universal acceptance that there are long-term sales effects from advertising and that they are typically at least twice as large as short-term effects, econometricians do not always agree on how they should be measured. Also, it inevitably takes a long time (three years or more) before long-term effects can be measured accurately — which is of little use to a brand manager who needs to decide whether or not to continue spending on a campaign in the next quarter.

This is where brand tracking can help. Short-term uplifts in brand measures have been proven to correspond to long-term advertising sales effects. In other words, if you see measures like the ones here lifting when you spend on advertising, you can be confident that the advertising is going to have a good long-term effect.

If you have done a good job in steps 1 and 2, the creative brief will specify exactly which key associations the advertising needs to build in consumers’ memories. It is these associations you should focus on in your tracking. Brand growth is known to correlate highly with both unaided brand awareness and brand consideration, so these measures are also important to track. Your ads should be creating positive feelings toward your brand and keeping it top of mind, so that when people think about buying the category, your brand comes to mind and they feel good about the idea of choosing it.

If you see good responses on these brand tracking dimensions early on, you need to keep the faith, stick with the campaign and be patient. It typically takes 18 months before the accrued long-term sales effects of advertising pay back the investment of an ad/campaign. Also, it can take a while before you and your creative agency learn how to make the campaign sing. Quite often, consumer feedback inspires a ‘breakthrough’ ad that captures the public’s imagination, establishes the campaign idea and makes future ads more effective.

Patience is also important because of the value of creative consistency. If your brand features the same distinctive brand assets in its advertising (and other touch points) over time, they will become increasingly linked to your brand. This will not only make your brand more salient, but also make it easier for your future advertising to be connected in memory with your brand. The commercial benefit of building distinctive brand assets is often underestimated by marketers.

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