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Focus on Advertising

Focus on Advertising

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Published by: irenek on Jan 10, 2008
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05/17/2010

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Focus on advertising: When, why & howto use qualitative research
By: Daniel Oromaner
Editor's note. Daniel Oromaner is president of the Qualitative Difference, PortWashington, New York.
Advertising is expensive-personnel, agency, development, andmedia, all add up to a sizable investment in a brand. Today,production costs for an ad can easily run $500,000. An amount thatis dwarfed by media expense. Recently, Gillette launched theirSensor razor with a world-wide media budget of 100 million dollars!Was the money well spent? Does advertising work? Do mostcompanies feel their ads are perfectly tuned to their audience andmessage? Are companies making the best use of their air buys? John Wanamaker said, "Half the money I spend on advertising iswasted, and the trouble is I don't know which half. " Similarly, mostof today's corporate executives do not feel confident about theiradvertising. There have been some exceptional campaigns, butmost ads seem to fall into a never-never land of recall,communication and effectiveness.My perspective is a narrow one. I conduct qualitative research-with aspecialty in copy research. Recently, I found that many moreadvertisers have been using this technique; in fact, a few of myclients never used qualitative in their ad research until just a fewyears ago.Considering that this application is relatively new, I will address thefollowing key questions: When should you use qualitativeadvertising research? What should you consider in planning suchresearch, and what are the new qualitative techniques for exploringall types of advertising?
Unique value of qualitative copy/ advertising research
Media
-I have used qualitative advertising research to studytelevision, radio, print, FSI, and direct mail executions. I have foundthe technique to be valuable in all cases, although the productioncosts for television generally necessitated the testing of roughercommercials.
Strategy or copy development 
-Focus group participants can be verycreative. In discussing your product, their thoughts, ideas andconsumer language may spark your creative team. Their view of themarketplace may even help determine the strategy or objectives foran ad or campaign.
Copy refinement 
-This is the best use of qualitative advertisingresearch. Focus groups give immediate feedback, and copy can bechanges during or between groups. I have found that the addition orchange of just two or three words can often make the differencebetween clear, likable communication and a commercial that missesthe mark. And, since better than 90 % of finished TV commercials
 
are aired (regardless of how they scored in copy tests), the time forrevision is pre-production!
Below the surface exploration
-Some of the most successfulcommercials evoke a mood, or an emotion. Professional probing andprojective techniques are often needed to help the respondentsverbalize feelings and associations.
Quick, competitive assessments
-In a category where comparativeadvertising proliferates, qualitative advertising research can providea rapid reading on how consumers are reacting to a competitor'snew ad or claim. It can also provide direction as to whether youneed to counter with your own advertising. AT&T, for example,regularly schedules focus groups to test their ads and theircompetitors' ads for this purpose.
"Disaster checks"
-Sometimes marketplace necessities do not leavetime to quantitatively test finished commercials. A quick series of focus groups can tell whether the finished spot will be an asset or aliability.
Methodological considerations
One-on-one's versus groups
-For copy development and refinement,focus groups work well. The group can encourage creativity, and theideas of each respondent spark associations and ideas from others.Reacting to, and building upon each other's ideas can be aneffective means of creating the theme of an ad, or refining anexecution.For disaster checks, or when you need to determine if subtle pointsor moods are being conveyed, in-depth interviews work best. This isalso true for business-to-business ad research, where differences inknowledge among the group members might lead to differentreactions individually versus in a group.
Number of ads to test 
-Qualitatively, it is generally better to testmore than one ad at a time. Using three executions gives therespondents a basis for comparison, helps them verbalize theirthoughts and feelings, and minimizes fatigue and confusion. If youonly have one execution to test, you can also include one or more of your old ads, or one or more of your competitors' ads.
Unfinished commercials
-According to research conducted by HarveyMagier of Consumer Outlook, Inc., 'Rough and finished commercialsevoke similar patterns of consumer response...Finished commercialsdo not create meaningfully stronger positive attitudes toward thebrand." However, 'finished commercials are significantly moreemotionally involving and entertaining than rough executions," soeither they should not be tested together, or this difference shouldbe factored into the results. If the ad relies heavily on emotion orimagery, the format should approximate finished as closely aspossible.
Key reaction variables
-My experience (which for the most part wasconfirmed by the findings of the Advertising Research Foundation'sCopy Research Validity Project) is that you need to elicit reactions inthree areas, easily remembered by the acronym "ALL."

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