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Tuesday 20 December 2022 12:53pm

When it comes to product advertisements, consumers like a bit of mystery.

A University of Otago-led study, in partnership with researchers from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, in Australia, has found television advertisements are more successful if they show the product first and the brand later.

John Williams image
Dr John Williams.

Lead author Dr John Williams, of the Department of Marketing, says researchers examined creative variables in television advertisements and monitored consumers' supermarket purchases after they viewed the ads.

The results contradict standard marketing theory and practice, but retrospectively make sense, Dr Williams says.

Part of the reason for this novel finding is that most advertising research evaluates “effectiveness” by asking consumers whether they would buy the product or even if they merely like the ad.

In contrast, researchers used a commercially-relevant and industry-validated measure of sales success, eliminating the so-called “intention-behaviour gap” that plagues much marketing research.

“Usually, television advertisements will start by showing the brand and then repeating it throughout,” Dr Williams says.

“But we discovered marketers should consider showing the product first and revealing the brand later.”

Research into consumer psychology suggests there are a few reasons for this.

“If you see an ad that's relevant to you but you're not sure what brand it's for, that creates unresolved tension and attention – the critical first step in advertising effectiveness – which is then resolved, giving a little trickle of dopamine,” he says.

“This makes an ad memorable due to the prolonged attention and processing, and also creates positive associations.”

Secondly, people usually already have opinions on brands before seeing their advertisements.

“If the brand is shown first, people either already buy it or buy some other brand that does the same job.

“In each case, they are more likely to direct their attention elsewhere because they've already made up their mind – there is no unresolved mystery that is then resolved.”

The study, published in the International Journal of Market Research, also highlights the importance of using multiple methods to analyse data.

“All statistical methods of analysing data have strengths, weaknesses and caveats, and therefore if you only use one method, you can never be sure whether your results are due to patterns in the data, or some aspect of the method you applied.

“This risk can be mitigated if you use multiple methods and see if they all tell the same story.”

The results have practical implications for brand marketers and people who work in brand agencies, as consumers are not as concerned about brands as they might think.

“Most people want products and services that satisfy their wants and needs, rather than particular brands. Although, there are a lot of exceptions to this general rule.”

Publication details:

Finding creative drivers of advertising effectiveness with modern data analysis.

John Williams, of the University of Otago, and Nicole Hartnett and Giang Trinh, of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, Australia.

International Journal of Market Research

For more information please contact:

Dr John Williams
Department of Marketing
University of Otago

Jessica Wilson
Adviser Media Engagement
University of Otago
Mob +64 21 279 5016

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