The Challenge of Effective Advertising

Well the holidays are over and I hope everyone has come back to work rested and refreshed.  Here’s hoping for a happy and healthy new year for us all!  In this post, I’d like to talk some more about print advertising in the life science market.

Research that we’ve conducted reveals that 62% of scientists cite advertisements as on of the most common ways they learn about new products.  But advertising is as expensive as it is important, and the costs of launching an ill-conceived campaign can be higher than not advertising at all.  Like consumers in other markets, life scientists are increasingly pressed for time and feel overwhelmed by choice.  Given the fast pace of scientific discovery, scientists are often uncertain as to whether or not they have full knowledge of all the tools that may be available to them and are thus likely to be more receptive to relevant, targeted advertising.

The greatest difficulty facing the manager responsible for formulating and executing an advertising campaign is the lack of consensus within the company on an ad’s purpose and ultimate value.  When various constituencies within a company have different goals and expectations, the resulting message of the campaign is equally confusing to customers.

At some levels within the company, advertising is expected to change customer perceptions, maintain awareness, reinforce brand loyalty, capture new customers and prompt a flurry of purchasing activity.  Others want advertising to entertain, intrigue, please or amuse the targeted scientific customer.  Such a broad spectrum of goals makes it difficult to derive a consistent set of objectives that can be accepted by all interests within the company—corporate management, R&D, marketing and sales.  Without a consensus as to what the advertising is intended to achieve, it is impossible to set clear objectives.  Furthermore, without clear objectives, measuring the success of the ad can become virtually impossible.

An ad’s purpose should be derived from the company’s overall positioning, marketing and sales strategies and the priorities set within each of these different plans.  To ensure that advertising fully supports corporate objectives, a more disciplined, rational approach is needed. In general, ads will be used to support either a “sales-centric” or “brand-centric” objective.  The target of a sales-centric advertising campaign is usually the end-user, lab manager or purchasing agent who has a current product need and will respond to an effective message by placing an order.  The same individuals are also the targets of a brand-centric campaign, however, they do not have a current need but it is hoped that the ad message will be remembered when a need arises.

In many cases, the corporate brand or the value proposition of a product tends to be driven by how management wishes it to be perceived, rather than by an understanding of the relationship between positioning, the resulting perceptions of the customers and the effect of the message on the purchasing behavior of distinct market segments.  This is the point where many campaigns falter.  In an effort to stretch the advertising budget to the maximum extent possible, objectives are merged and the clarity of the resulting message is diluted.

When attempting to accomplish too much at once, the message not only become diluted, but subsequent decisions reflect the uncertainty of the company’s objectives.  Ad copy can become overly long and complex, design and layout loses focus and the list of publications in which the ad is to appear gets broader—all in the hope that some part of the message will appeal to somebody, somewhere.

Ad design is a critical phase in the development of an effective campaign. If all consumers are skeptical of advertising, scientists are even more so.  Scientists are highly educated, analytical individuals who by the nature of their training and work also tend to be very skeptical.  Advertising designers must have an excellent grasp of the ad’s objective.  In life science advertising, the balance between content and product concept is critical.  It has been a long held belief that scientists respond only to ads with a high degree of technical content.  Yet, the almost subliminal impact of creative ads should not be underestimated—too much technical content can be intimidating or confusing.  The art of advertising is, of course, to blend a wide variety of elements that include text, images, color, size, readability and layout.

We developed a methodology we call AdAssay to provide our clients with diagnostic insights designed to improve advertising effectiveness.  By measuring the collective “communication effect” of an ad, i.e., its potential impact on awareness, knowledge, and likely course of action, suppliers will be in a better position to determine whether their ads are designed to support their advertising objectives. Successful advertising can help build brand equity and boost long-term profitability.

Through ad effectiveness testing, an ad can be evaluated for key factors or determinants (i.e., actionable, emotional, intellectual and negative) and correlate these factors with specific outcomes (e.g., likeability, ability to convey one’s message, intent to purchase, etc.). Our proprietary assessment is done using a mathematical model, based on 15 key attributes to determine advertising effectiveness. The AdAssay methodology seeks to explain why a particular ad is likely to be effective or ineffective. Its unique scoring system offers the flexibility needed to easily accommodate geographic and demographic differences, allowing suppliers to test ads in different target markets.

Ad concept testing is designed to answer the following questions:

Which ad will be most effective in supporting your advertising goals?
Does the ad communicate your message?
Is the ad appealing, interesting and innovative?
Will it encourage the intended out outcome?

Our recommended methodology measures the effectiveness of your ads by analyzing the interaction of 15 attributes grouped into four factors: Actionable, Negative, Emotional, and Intellectual.  In addition, three outcomes are predicted: how well the ad was liked, how well it conveyed the image of the organization, and how likely respondents were to recommend the organization to a colleague.

Once I figure out how to upload images I’ll post some examples in my next entry!