What Research Means To Advertising

One of the great of the ad world, David Ogilvy, once said that advertising people who ignore research are “as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.â€?

Whilst most people in advertising accept that they and researchers are on the same side of the battle for business and consumer hearts and wallets, it’s often an uneasy alliance.

Dan O’Donoghue, Worldwide strategic Planning Director with Publicis Worldwide says “All the great advertising people, whether you consider David Ogilvy or John Webster or Bill Bernbach, you’ll find they were all advocates of market research.â€?

“What’s happened in the last 10 to 15 years is the creative area’s been taken over by loonies. They see researching, understanding people who they need to sell things to as a bad thing. That’s led to a bad relationship between advertising and research, but it’s historically inaccurate.â€?

Loonies or not, something’s clearly soured the relationship. So, where has it all gone wrong? The problem seems to be not so much with the research itself but the way the results are delivered or interpreted.

“A lot of planners would say market research gets in the way!” Says Jon Steel, planning director with WPP, the media group led by Sir Martin Sorrell that includes creative agencies Ogilvy & Mather, Bates and JWT.

“What they’re talking about is bad market research or market research applied wrongly by the client. I’m in favour of any information that can help me make a better decision, but some people take what it says too literally, and if you follow research findings to the letter, you’ll make big mistakes and your work will be very dull. You have to believe in a healthy degree of opinion and intuition.â€?

The founder of Sony, Akio Morita, used to say that if he’d listened to market research, he’d never have launched the Walkman.

At creative agency BBDO Europe, there’s no policy on when, how much and what kind of research should be applied to a campaign, but market research, particularly qualitative research, is seen as a vital part of the process of creating and testing advertising. BBDO has DaimlerChryler, FedEx, Pepsi and Ikea among its list of clients around the world.

“Without proper research, I think advertising becomes simply a game of chance and nobody wants to play a game of chance with the kind of sums we’re looking atâ€? says Williams Eccleshire, the agency’s Europe chairman and CEO.

Undoubtedly it’s a help if it’s used properly but if it’s misused, it becomes simply a crutch to support a bad decision.â€?

These is a growing focus on research meaning researchers need to provide insight in addition to facts and figures.

In the future research will spilt into two divisions, one to carry out fieldwork and the other to have more of a consultancy and interpretive role.

The future of the relationship between market research and advertising will not, it is clear, be without its challenges, even though the prospects are looking up.

If you wish to know more on this topic, there is a B2B International White Paper on “Making the promotional pound go further.â€?

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