Marketers spend in line with beliefs not data

by Nigel Hollis | March 19, 2018

Mark Ritson’s review of Radiocentre and Ebiquity’s new report on the dichotomy between marketers’ perceptions of media channels and the data on effectiveness of those channels is fascinating but somewhat depressing. Ritson concludes that the evidence will not make any difference to where marketers spend their money.

The new report can be summed up by one of its key takeouts,

“With the exception of TV, advertisers undervalue traditional media, especially radio. They overrate the value of online video and paid social.”

And one of the implications reads,

“No matter how effective the medium, the key to success is good creative. A key theme running across the research is the need for advertisers to strike the right balance between creatively integrating campaigns across media and optimising them for each platform.”

Despite this, the report finds that “Getting your ads noticed” is one of the attributes considered least important by marketers. While earning attention is just one of the benefits of creativity it is probably the most important.

Ritson concludes his review of the report by suggesting that the report will change nothing, in part because of the cognitive dissonance involved in admitting that you have been spending your media money in the wrong place. And I see his point, after all, the evidence has suggested for years that the one thing that can make the most difference to sales is the quality of creative, in whatever medium it appears, but more and more marketers seem to be abandoning quality of content for quantity.


I was reminded of this fact when I re-read an Amap paper written by Paul Dyson of Data2Decisions and published in 2014. Titled, ‘Top 10 drivers of advertising profitability’, and based on a meta analysis of market mix modeling results the article finds that the biggest influence on return to advertising under the marketer’s control, and second in the ranking, was creative quality (the first was category and brand size). Creative had over twice the impact of the next factor which was budget allocation across geographies (which is not necessarily under the control of the person in charge of a specific brand).

Apart from creative quality, the factors under a manager’s control, but with substantially less impact on revenues, were media integration (have you seen our AdReaction report?) and then budget allocation across season, task, phasing and target audience.

So that is the evidence. Where do marketers appear to be focusing today? You guessed it, on budget optimization. Never mind the fact that the revenue impact is likely to be at least 10 times greater from creating a compelling campaign huge resources are being diverted into trying to optimize what it spent not make it more effective. Is it personal bias, the lure of certainty or simply a lack of strategy at fault? Please share your thoughts.