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The power of advertising

May 29th, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized by

Henry Ford is famously quoted as saying that only 50% of the advertising his company commissioned worked. He just wished he knew which half.

A survey in 2007 reported that only 10% of Americans trusted advertising.

For many years I worked in market research. We regularly ran advertising recall surveys and found that most people could not remember who was advertising what or what the advert was about.

Which begs two questions: why do companies advertise and is it worth government countering adverts that aren’t having much impact?

From my understanding, companies advertise to reinforce brand loyalty and awareness. While you do get product launch campaigns these are not simply done through advertising. Advertisers also know that the messages they communicate must resonate with the public. If they don’t, the public will not believe the proposition and will not buy the product.

Two incredibly successful brands did not advertise for years: Marks & Spencer and Google. Yet without changing behaviour through advertising they built strong and profitable businesses.

Tom Papworth has already discussed whether government should intervene and attempt to reduce the power of advertising.

But if advertising is doing something else: simply reinforcing existing views and not changing behaviour, then there is no point in trying to counter something that no amount of advertising can achieve.

2 Responses to “The power of advertising”

  1. Mark Lee Says:

    I’m naturally cynical about surveys and even more so about reports of surveys. (Your survey link, by the way, goes to a 2006 report of a 2005 survey on a different subject).

    There are lots of different types of adverts and some may have more impact than others.
    The only way to be sure is to include a call to action and to measure the response. Using different landing pages on the web, different response codes and even different phone numbers/names for different ads.

  2. Simon Goldie Says:


    I completely agree about your point on calls to action etc. That is why many companies have shifted towards advertising on the web in order to best test how well the advertising is working.