Monday, October 10, 2005

Research Soapbox

Open letter to the advertising industry:

Stop. Please. You're getting it wrong. Stop with the focus groups. Stop with the surveys. You have answered those questions. Ask me. I can help. So can my friends Rob Potter and Paul Bolls. Call us. We will put together some research that will blow your minds. And compared to what you are spending, it will seem cheap! Trust us. We're scientists.

In preparing to teach my undergraduate strategic communication class tomorrow, I was reviewing the textbook and came across the following sentence, "[Young & Rubicam] has invested over $70 million and conducted over 120 studies in building a comprehensive global database of consumer perceptions of brands."

Seventy mil! And you learned some good things. Not 70 million things but some good things. But are you going to learn any more things? See, the problem is that you leaned too heavily upon the thing that talks. You know, consciousness. The deal is that the thing that talks, well, it lies. It will tell you that it buys Tide instead of Gain because it works better. The thing that talks believes that. The thing that talks thinks that advertising does not affect it. But it does. And we can help get past that misguided thing that talks.

Brands are all about emotion. You know that. But you don't use the tools of an emotion theorist. You use the tools of a public opinion theorist. And they're just not the same. Come tour our labs. I offer a blanket invitation. I'm sure Paul and Rob would do the same. Let us introduce you to the psychophysiology lab and what it can show.

We all know the old adage that: we know we're wasting half of our advertising dollars but not which half. I will go one better. You're wasting a lot more than half of your research budget, and we can show which half. Just ask.

In the end, you'll find our answers. We are scientists, and we publish our findings. Rob is already doing great work about radio advertising clutter. Paul is now looking at health communication, and I'm working on brands. We'll get to it all, eventually. But it will be a lot quicker if you throw some grants our way. And if you're used to spending $70 million, we're going to seem bargain basement.

Ken Kaess, chairman of the board of American Association of Advertising Agencies, got it right when he talked about focusing on emotion in advertising in the Journal of Advertising Research (June 2004). But not everyone has the tools. We do. We're scientists. And we're ready to roll up our sleeves and go to work.


Anonymous Anonymous said...'re on!

10:33 PM  
Blogger Paul Bolls, PRIME Lab said...

Sam has it right on. We are here to add scientific insight into how the brain processes media which ought the beginning point of the design of effective campaign messages. If you want truly brilliant insight into how consciousness (i.e. survey/focus groups) can lead to misguided understanding of human nature read Antonio Damasio's The Feeling of What Happens.

7:04 PM  

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