Lessons from Advertisers: How to Make Insights Stand Out

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    What makes insights stand out? How do we get decision makers to really take notice and pay attention to what the data is saying? It’s a hotly contested issue, and one which has only become increasingly important as the digital age creates more and more data points to measure.

    If there’s any business that has experience cutting through noisy environments to deliver memorable messages, its advertising. So, what can researchers and insights professionals learn from the trade and apply to our own challenges? Let’s find out.

    Advertising Effectiveness

    Well, we’ll find out in a minute. First, let’s talk about advertising effectiveness. A dreaded term; one that can kill just about any creative idea. Here’s the problem: advertising operates in a world where the goal isn’t always clear. Digital formats have created a microcosm in which it is expected that advertising must have a clear, traceable and measurable impact on revenue. But of course, that isn’t always the case.

    But, rather than lose ourselves down the rabbit holes of debates surrounding advertising effectiveness, and whether it is necessary to measure at all – let’s take the four ‘must measure’ gauges suggested by Adobe as our foundation. These are:

    1. Campaign Impact: the distinctiveness of the advert, and how well it drives recall so that the brand or message is available at a later date.
    2. Campaign Resonance: how well an advert appeals to the target audience, often defined by its clarity, credibility and ability to compel.
    3. Brand Fit: the alignment between the creative and the brand – not only in terms of individual elements but position and thematic concepts.
    4. Brand Favourability: how well an advert appeals to the emotions of an intended audience to push the brand into a higher consideration set.

    Based on these principles, the way in which we communicate insights must have a number of key considerations at their core: insights presentations should be impactful, designed to resonate with an intended audience, tonally fit the feedback presented and appeal to the emotions of our stakeholders.

    While useful, this is all still fairly common knowledge – and, I’d argue, already happening in many stakeholder presentations. So, can we dig further into what’s important in advertising and what the success factors are?

    Advertising Elements

    Yes, we can. A 2017 Nielsen Catalina study analysed over 500 campaigns across all media channels to identify the percentage contribution to sales by each advertising element. As a rough proxy, this can show us which elements matter, and what their relevant impact is. Let’s break down each of the elements and look at how they can be applied to market research presentations.

    Context – 2%

    With the smallest overall impact on effectiveness, context does not require long or lengthy deliberation. That doesn’t mean it should be entirely ignored; just kept proportional to the amount of time spent on other, more impactful elements.

    But what is context anyway? In short, it’s how well a piece of creative fits into its surrounding environment. In internal research presentations, our surrounding context is the business and brand itself. While it is by no means the most important factor, ensuring that the presentation represents the business in visuals, language and even values will have an effect on the audience.

    Recency – 5%

    For a long time, advertisers have operated on the principle of recency. That is, the closer an audience member is to making a decision, the more impact an advert will have. The Nielsen Catalina study shows that whilst there is a recency effect, it is relatively small in comparison to a number of the other factors.

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    The recency effect suggests presenting research  data closer to the point at which decisions need to be made is more effective - but it is an equally risky strategy for stakeholder engagement.

    In research, taking advantage of recency may mean delivering insight presentations and outputs closer to when key decisions need to be made compared to when the analysis concludes. In other words, work on the timelines of your stakeholders, not of the research project. Though, between the risk of decisions being made early and the small impact, it may also be prudent not to always employ this principle.

    Targeting – 9%

    In mass media, targeting is tough. Matching the placement of an advert to where your target audience gathers is not as straightforward as it sounds. Fortunately, its contribution to revenue – while not insignificant – is still below the 10% mark. For researchers, targeting is much easier. We know who our stakeholders are. We know what decisions are going to be made, and who is making them. (And if we don’t… we should definitely find out.)

    In this context, targeting doesn’t necessarily mean finding the right place, but personalising the messages to be relevant to each stakeholder. Consider what information is most important to them, what is ancillary, and what is irrelevant. The same data can mean many things to many people; and it's our job to figure out what it means to whom.

    Brand – 15%

    Yep, the more well-known a brand is, the more effective its advertising will be. But research teams don’t have brands, so what can we do with this information? I think the answer is simple – develop a brand for your research team. It doesn’t have to include a name or a logo. But you should absolutely build an internal reputation.

    What does your research team deliver? What are your success stories? What makes you an authoritative voice in your industry? Decision makers should be able to answer these questions instantly, and the more positively your internal brand is received, the more authoritative it will appear.

    Reach – 22%

    The second most influential factor refers to the amount of people who see the advert, and how often they see it. For researchers seeking to influence decisions – there are two actions we can take based on this knowledge. The first is to repeat key data points, messages and outcomes in multiple formats. Don’t just speak them or put them into a slide deck, add them to summaries, use them in reminders or written communications, even print them. Repetition is vital.

    The other action is to ensure that the data reaches a wide audience. A larger audience is conducive to stimulating conversation and discussion. It is through this lasting impact that you have some of the greatest opportunities to exert influence.

    Creative – 47%

    Finally, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the creative itself has the most impact. In fact, nearly half of advertising impact is generated from this factor alone. So put time, effort and care into the way that you deliver data. Write an engaging story, create infographics, consider the role of video, even think outside the box. Visuals, copywriting and strategy all come together in creative – and there is so much opportunity to be inspiring and engaging. Be sure to use it wisely.

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    Creative accounts for nearly 50% of advertising impact alone. If researchers want to present insights in an impactful way, proportional consideration should be given to format.

    I want to end this piece on what researchers can learn about engaging audiences from advertisers with a much-lauded quote from ad-man Leo Burnett: “Advertising is the ability to sense, interpret… to put the very heart throbs of a business into type, paper and ink.”

    As researchers, we already do so much of this. We measure. We sense. We interpret what our customers and consumers tell us. If we can learn to put, in a creative manner, this insight to type, paper and ink (and their modern equivalents), then we can become central to the operations of any business.

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