New Digital Analytics Measure Ad Effectiveness for Building Brands

Results confirm that great creative drives stronger brands over time

Sarah Walker
Global Lead, Digital Behavior Analytics
Millward Brown

Peter Walshe
Global Brands Director
Millward Brown

The world of measurement is changing - but a bit of enduring wisdom never hurts. For all that is new, the old rules still apply: great advertising builds great brands. What’s different, now, is that we can see this in new ways. We have new data sources, new measurement tools, new analysis approaches. So those of us in marketing have a choice. We can throw away all our preconceptions, start from scratch with no expectations, and be guided purely by what patterns there are in these new data. Or we can take what we already know about what makes brands great, and look for better/faster/easier/cheaper ways to measure them. Starting with a blank sheet of paper can feel liberating - but it’s madness.

Millward Brown’s newest tracking approach, “Digital Behavior Analytics,” takes the latter approach. It applies advanced analytics to digital signals like search patterns and social conversation to derive validated indicators of attitudes and behaviors that we already know build strong brands. Long-term trends in brand search patterns, for example, act as an indicator of brand Salience in people’s minds. Differences in social conversation volumes across brands in a category reflect how dynamic and innovative a brand is perceived to be. Search trends and Social may be new types of data - but Salience and dynamism are long-standing aspects of brand equity whose importance have been proved time and time again.

Those same data sources and analytics can also provide indicators of advertising impact and effectiveness. Campaigns that have good in-market cut-through and strong creative are much more likely to drive increases in buzz about the brand. Advertising that successfully communicates news or delivers a compelling message is far more likely to increase searches for the brand. Cut-through and news have always formed the bedrock of our advertising assessment frameworks - now we can just see them faster through these new approaches. New tools and new data sources don’t necessarily need to mean new philosophies. Digital data can provide flexible, cost-effective ways to measure the things we already know matter.

If the old rules still apply in our world of measurement, it’s because they also still govern how consumers respond to advertising. By combining Millward Brown’s Digital Behavior Analytics with Kantar Media’s advertising tracking data, we’ve looked at some of the biggest movers in the BrandZ™ Global Top 100 to see how much creative impact their ads make. Regardless of how new or established the brands were, we saw that strong creative drives stronger, more valuable brands over time. Though the range of opportunities for highly tactical, efficient and effective personalized marketing has grown hugely, great advertising that gets people talking remains a worthwhile investment for young challengers and old powerhouses alike.


Effective advertising, brand strength form virtuous circle

Tesla, a new entrant into the BrandZ™ Top 100 this year, is one of the new kids on the block. Its brand advertising and advertising impact show a pattern common to new and up-and-coming brands. Tesla’s brand equity has grown a lot over the last few years, and while famously not an advocate of traditional above-the-line advertising, the few marketing dollars it does spend have grown noticeably in both value and effectiveness in 2015 compared to previous years, and we see this manifest itself in increased impact on both conversation but also search as a result. At the same time, brand-supported interest and buzz continues to increase over the long term. Like many young brands, Tesla shows the impact of effective advertising – in whatever channel - on driving growth; and as its brand gets stronger, so its communications become more efficient and more effective at converting into brand equity. This is a virtuous circle: the more activity a brand does, the more people will know it; and the more a brand is known to people, the more meaningful – and therefore effective – its advertising becomes.


Strong creative cut-through is king for brand building

Advertising doesn’t just build brands by getting them better known. It is a hugely powerful tool for brand growth, even for established brands. Dove has been a strong, well-known personal care brand for decades, yet this year the brand has increased in value by 3 percent, ahead of the category as a whole. This is, clearly, not due to greater awareness – you would struggle to find a shopper in the western world who hadn’t heard of Dove. With little new product news we see little change this year in the ability of their advertising to deliver messaging – but we have seen a significant and continuing increase in its creative cut-through. Campaigns such as Dove’s “Choose Beautiful” execution showing women choosing between doors marked “Beautiful” or “Average,” and Dove Men+Care’s Father’s Day creative featuring footage of new fathers-to-be finding out they were to be a dad, led to 2015’s advertising demonstrating an increase of over 50 percent in efficiency at generating conversation about the brand. Even with little new messaging, strong creative is able to make Dove’s meaningful difference more mentally available for people.

Similarly, Amazon, the fastest-growing brand in the BrandZ™ Global Top 100, has steadily increased the effectiveness of its advertising at generating interest in the brand. This has translated into a steeply increasing base of social conversation, sustained by the brand being perceived as different and innovative/newsworthy. This is a sharp contrast to rival Walmart, whose trend in distinctiveness and dynamism is firmly in the opposite direction, with any conversation increasingly having to be bought through high media spend.


Sponsorships and partnerships also drive brand engagement

Two of the big Brazilian beer brands, Brahma and Skol, have both seen strong growth in value this year, which we see paralleled in the increases in base levels of conversation about both brands. But perhaps the most interesting outcome is the proof that it’s not just traditional advertising that is capable of driving strong brand engagement. In 2015, Skol’s sponsorship of music festivals had a far greater – and more sustained – impact on the brand than any of its more traditional activity, generating the highest levels of search and social seen for the brand over the last four years. As a result, by the end of 2015, the digital indicators of Skol’s brand Salience and Dynamism both begin to strongly pull away from the category. Aligning itself with properties that people genuinely care about and that fit with the brand can have greater lasting impact on the brand than channels with much higher reach if they don’t deliver the same emotional connections.

Amazon generates more social media conversation than Walmart

Amazon vs. Walmart in Social Conversation


Creative cut-through drives brand growth in old, new channels

This is an exciting time to be in our industry. New media channels emerge, new technology makes different types of interaction with consumers possible, and the volume and variety of new data sources is both exhilarating and daunting. But the old rules still apply, even if we can now see them at work and respond to them in new ways. Brands become more valuable when they have clear meaning to consumers, are seen as different and dynamic, and come to mind when it counts. Creative communications that cut through, generate interest and spark conversation are still the drivers of brand growth, in old channels and new. We can’t go backwards, nor would we want to – but we can be confident that the fundamental truths of good communication will be the same in the next age of advertising as they were in the last.