Talk about econometric modelling and people’s eyes usually start to
glaze over. Effectiveness research tends not to be the most gripping
stuff in the world.
But there are those who swear by it: this, in theory, is the ultimate in
accountability. A number of studies measure consumer behaviour and
attempt to link it with advertising activity. The main medium involved
is television. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, these studies show that TV
does indeed work. Buy some airtime and the shelves start to empty.
Last week, at the Radio Advertising Bureau’s annual conference, Winston
Fletcher, chairman of the Bozell Group, took the radio industry to task
for not doing enough in this area. As a minor medium, radio has to try
harder and should at least be matching television in proving its
effectiveness. The argument, he added, applies to other media too.
Outdoor, cinema and some sectors of the magazine market would all profit
from proving that they work (Campaign, last week).
And he went further: ideally, there should be comparative data across
the whole market. Clients and media planners should be able to compare
the effectiveness of pounds 1 spent on radio with the same on TV,
newspapers, or cinema. Then they’d be in a better position to apportion
their budgets across different media.
Sounds reasonable, but is it possible? This sort of thing doesn’t come
cheap. Andrew Ingram, the account planning director of the RAB, admits
it’s an ambitious vision. He comments: ’At the moment there’s a huge
amount of ignorance.
Ideally, we would like to come up with something that might tell us that
radio drives awareness a third as fast as TV. It’s never likely to be as
simple as that, but we need a starting point.’
Ingram argues it should be possible to build from modest beginnings - if
you generate enough useful case-study media on individual clients, you
can start to draw general conclusions.
But would it have the desired effect? Even if we assume that the numbers
would look good for minor media, would that help them attract more
Fiona Smedley, joint managing director of Universal McCann, thinks it
could. ’Revenue would flow into a medium that could prove its
The problem is it isn’t easy. Magazines have spent years struggling to
prove they’re as effective per pounds 1 spent as TV. They’ve produced
lots of case studies and research. But clients remain sceptical of their
’It’s complicated even within one medium - how do you measure the
effectiveness of daytime TV versus peak? A 48-sheet poster on Cromwell
Road versus the local high street? But we want to have some idea about
whether moving some budget out of TV and on to radio will dilute
effectiveness or improve it. These days the central issue is
effectiveness rather than coverage.’
Graham Bednash, managing partner of Michaelides & Bednash,
’The idea that you can create comparative data across media is
It harks back to the thinking of the 50s. It assumes limited media and
homogeneous consumers and that you can take simple measurements of
output and response. We’re now in a market that has started to go beyond
even demographics into far more sophisticated classification systems and
causal relationships are far more complicated.
’It’s the sort of thinking where you start with the medium then work
outwards to the brand and consumer. When this business gets things
wrong, it’s usually because it’s started from the wrong place. Our
thinking has always been that you must start with the brand, then think
of the consumer’s relationship with that brand - then think about