I saw a very interesting presentation by a guy at J&J once. They had developed an ad for one of their products, and were unsure about how well it was going to work. So they set up a control: they ran it in half of the country, and not in the other half. They gave it six months.
The results were no different in the half of the country they had advertised in to the one they hadn’t advertised in. Drawing the conclusion that the advertising didn’t work, they did all the usual things one does in the circumstances: binned the ad, fired the agency, and started developing new work.
But they knew it would take months to develop new ads, and they couldn’t leave the brand unsupported over that time. So they ran a coupon drop across the entire country, to hold the fort.
Which is where the story gets interesting. Because the coupon drop worked very well where they had run the advertising, but hardly at all in the area they had used the control. The advertising had created a threshold interest in purchasing the brand that was then turned into active sales by another element of the marketing mix. By which time the agency relationship had been terminated
Peter Field and Les Binet’s seminal book ‘Marketing in the Era of Accountability’ stresses the importance of setting the right objectives for your communications. Hand in hand with this must go a clear understanding of how we intend our communications to work, and how those elements are going to work together. The agency has to be front and centre in defining this, and has to take a view across the entire mix – for its own sake. If they don’t, and the advertising doesn’t ‘work’ in terms of key measures like sales, the client will simply do all the usual things one does in the circumstances. When sometimes all you needed was a clear agreement on what element of the mix was going to do what.
And the right coupon at the right time.
This article first appeared in Campaign Asia Pacific