Despite data being one of marketing’s current obsessions, most brands aren’t extracting value from 11 of the most basic data-points available to everyone, writes Tom Roach, Managing Partner, Effectiveness, BBH.

‘How did Facebook, which prides itself on being able to process billions of data-points…somehow not make the connection that electoral ads paid for in roubles were coming from Russia. Those are two data-points. You put billions of data-points together – you can’t put together roubles with a political ad.’

[Sen. Al Franken to Facebook’s General Counsel at the Senate judiciary subcommittee hearing 31.10.17]

Facebook’s inability to spot Russian involvement in the US election shows that even for the most advanced, data-driven businesses, the ones involved in the really deep drilling, there’s still a load of important data lying close to the surface, ignored and untapped.

Marketing suffers from a similar problem.

Only a minority of brands make highly creative and highly effective marketing communications. Work that’s distinctive, well-branded, emotional, fame-driving, maybe even award-winning. Work that will drive sales today, sales for years in the future, and deliver returns far beyond what the CFO would get if she kept the money in the bank.

And far from needing terabytes of data – the big data that so many marketers now talk such a good game about – it’s perfectly possible to make highly effective communications that do all the above with the help of just a few kilobytes of data.

So here are some of the simplest, most basic, but most fundamental data-points that could transform the effectiveness of any brand’s marketing, if only they were more universally known and used:

1. Start with the number 0 in mind, or start wrong.



For most brands, the biggest opportunity for growth comes from taking people from buying it zero times to buying it once in a typical purchase cycle[1]. Starting with zero means you’ll start from the right place – a place which assumes most of your customers don’t often buy your brand, don’t think much or care about it and certainly don’t give a s**t about your advertising.

2. Start wrong and you’ll end up making some of the 84% of advertising that doesn’t even get past the first hurdle of being noticed and remembered.

Only 16% of advertising is both recalled and correctly attributed to the brand (according to a study by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of 143 TV ads[2]) suggesting 84% of ad spend could be going to waste if that’s replicated in the real world. It’s another sobering reminder that your audience don’t care about your advertising, so you’d better make it distinctive enough to make an impact and well-branded enough so people remember who it’s from.

3. Don’t expect customers to notice you, remember you and remember more than 1 message.

An analysis by Millward Brown of their Link test database[3] provides evidence of something advertising people have always known instinctively: the more messages you try and communicate, the less likelihood there is of any single message being communicated (‘throw people one tennis ball and they’ll catch it, throw them lots and they’ll drop them all’). And remember this is from people who are being forced to watch your ads in pre-testing research: real people in the real world will remember even less.

4. Emotional campaigns are 2x as likely to be effective as rational ones in achieving all this.

 According to Binet & Field’s work, emotional campaigns are twice as likely to be profitable as rational campaigns, more than twice as efficient at driving market share, and work especially well over the long-term[4].

5. Campaigns that aim for fame work 4x harder than the average.

Fame-driving campaigns are 4x as efficient as the average campaign, driving 4x the market share growth per 10 points of extra SOV[5]. In fact, the data in ‘The Long and the short of it’ supports a long-held belief at BBH which is that fame is a magic ingredient that can massively enhance the performance of your campaigns.

6. Creative execution matters a lot: it’s the 2nd biggest driver of ROI.

Market and brand size are together the biggest driver of advertising profitability, but the 2nd biggest factor is the quality of creative execution[6]. In fact it can impact ROI by a factor of 12. Creative execution is not ‘colouring in’: it matters more than nearly everything else.

7. Highly creatively-awarded work is 16x as efficient.

Creative awards aren’t important. But Binet & Field’s work suggests that highly awarded-work is dramatically more efficient at driving market share growth than non-awarded work[7]. It’s more likely to get talked about, be remembered and most importantly, deliver a much stronger commercial impact.

8. For maximum effectiveness you’ll need to find the right balance between brand-building and sales activation, which is on average 60:40[8].

Getting the balance right between long-term brand-building and short-term sales activation, between creating memories and activating them, is important for maximum commercial effectiveness. You’ll have to experiment to work out what’s best for your brand, though.

9. Perhaps the most often ignored data-point is this: 10%pts of excess share of voice drives 0.5% market share on average.

 All of this theory has essentially boiled down to an argument for ‘doing bloody good work’ so far. And obviously that’s not enough: if you don’t put decent money behind it, it can’t work. The data supporting this comes from various IPA studies linking share of voice with market share. On average, a 10%pt difference between SOV and SOM leads to 0.5% of extra market share growth[9].

10. Once you’re seeing an impact on brand consideration, you’ve got to keep going as it will drop 15% per week on average following a campaign.

A study by Mediacom business science modelling suggests that on average improvements in consideration will begin to drop at the quite alarming rate of 15% per week, and will be back at pre-campaign levels after 4 months[10]. Don’t be tempted to blow your media budget in ego-boosting bursts: reach your audience as continuously as possible.

11The good news is the impact you can see from even tiny shifts in brand consideration can be enormous: a +1%pt shift is worth on average 0.5-1.5% total sales according to Gain Theory’s analysis[11].

These 11 numbers take up just a few kilobytes of data. But employing the principles behind them could help transform the effectiveness of any brand’s advertising.

The average UK advertising campaign delivers £1.51 of short-term profit and £3.24 in long-term profit for every £1 spent, according to Thinkbox’s latest study of 1954 campaigns across 150 advertisers[12]. And the strongest short-term profit ROI recorded for a single campaign in this analysis was a massive £12.96.

With potential returns like this on offer, even for merely average marketing, it seems unbelievable that any brand would choose to either not advertise, not spend enough, or to not make good work.

Because making bad work is a choice: a choice that too many marketing teams make all the time by focusing on fashionable marketing buzzwords and ignoring the basics.

Full deck

[1] Byron Sharp, ‘How Brands Grow’, Chapter 4

[2] Ehrenberg-Bass Institute study, quoted in ‘How Brands Grow’

[3] Kantar Millward Brown analysis the Link ad test database

[4] Binet & Field, The IPA, The Long and the Short of It

[5] Binet & Field, The IPA The Long and the Short of It

[6] Paul Dyson, Admap, Sept 2014,  ‘The Top 10 Drivers of Advertising Profitability’

[7] Binet & Field, The IPA, Selling Creativity Short

[8] Binet & Field, The IPA The Long and the Short of It

[9] Nielsen, Budgeting for the upturn does share of voice matter

[10] Mediacom Business Science Modelling

[11] Thinkbox, Ebiquity & Gain Theory, ‘Profit Ability: The business case for advertising

[12] Thinkbox, Ebiquity & Gain Theory, ‘Profit Ability: The business case for advertising


28 Responses

  1. This would be tremendously helped with more clarity and less vagueness of language; for example, these lines are so slippery to be almost meaningless:

    “improvements in consideration”

    “reach your audience as continuously as possible”

    ” share of voice with market share”

    “Campaigns that aim for fame”

    “between creating memories and activating them”

    I’m sure these make perfect sense in your head when writing them, but to others they are ambiguous and unhelpful.

    • Thanks for your comment Alex. It was written with a general marketing audience in mind, many of whom would be familiar with many of the terms and concepts covered (such as brand consideration, share of voice, aiming for fame, creating vs activating brand memories). If you’re after more in depth source material which might explain these concepts in more detail and add further clarity I’d suggest reading some of the source material (Byron Sharp’s ‘How Brands Grow’, and some of the IPA research studies that are cited). I’m sorry you found the article ambiguous and unhelpful – as this was precisely the opposite of our intention in writing it. Many others, however, have found it to be quite the opposite.

  2. Love the premise here Tom and some of the examples. Just struggling to resolve point 2 on 84% of ads not being remembered or attributed and your concluding point on UK ads on average delivering 3.24 long term profit per pound spent. I know they’re from different sources but the broader direction from each is so different…

    • Dear Neil – May I wholeheartedly recommend you read the reference materials yourself as advised above by the clever and generous Tom? It’s not just a really tight well presented article but an excellent primer reading list BTW for anyone looking to introduce some sort of effectiveness culture or mindset into their teams (thank you). Then you can stop struggling and form a POV using your own powers of critical thinking, market research and analytical skills. You may find that it’s not just the source, but the objectives, purpose, author, sample size and composition, nationality, culture, methodology, stimulus and different hypotheses being explored that may have had an influence on the findings. Happy New Year!

    • Hi Neil, possible explanations vs your question (2 and 3 are the more sensible, I think):
      1. both measurements are true, 3.24 is what you get at that level of recall. (imagine what you could get with more!)
      2. different sample sets: 3.24 is based on published in-depth case studies, which tends to favour successful stories as those are the ones that get told. Whereas 84% is based on a broader sample of all activity successful or not. So they’re not comparable.
      3. Recall is a controversial measure of effect, and it’s quite possible for non-recalled ads to generate strong effects. So, plenty of those 84% are also generating payback. If you look at the data on low attention processing, system 1 vs system 2 etc, there’s a strong case that while recall tends to generate effect, non-recalled ads can also generate effect (but not always). This is because recall only measures what people can remember consciously – and the majority of ad effect is non-conscious. Conscious recall is a useful “multiplier” – it can point out the very top tier of impact – ads which are famous, and really noticeable. But many of the rest are also getting through. The research challenge is how to detect those “non conscious winners”. (Read Robert Heath’s seminal piece on “the Hidden Power of Advertising”, and neuroscience such as “Think, Fast and slow” by Kahneman). Hope this helps

      • Hi Matt,

        Had to sign up, as it were, to reply that your points are great analysis.

        Neil’s question is a fair one and despite knowing both figures I hadn’t considered. The points at first glance seem juxtaposed – consumers are more apathetic to brands/advertising than us marketers would like to believe and 84% of ads (according to the study) are ignored/not placed. If you asked jo(e) public (not marketers) to name ads they’ve seen/heard out of the hundreds a day online, on billboards, on TV, on social, on radio etc I reckon the percentage would be higher. So how is the average ROI £3.24 per £1 spent on so much ignored dross? Far better than the CFO leaving it in the bank (a nice quip from Tom).

        I think all your points are valid and if I may add to point 2 – there are probably some outstanding campaigns bringing up the average and plenty sitting under the £2 ROI mark.

        To Tom – as a client side marketer I must mention one of these stats/points a day so great to have them in one place and thoroughly referenced. So thanks and season’s greetings.

      • Hi Matt, Neil,

        Having written the Long Term analysis I can confirm that 1 and 3 are likely to be true, and 3 is especially pertinent, but I wanted to add some clarity on 2. The dataset fueling this study was from a combination of Gain Theory and Ebiquity clients. There is potentially some bias in there, in that we mostly work with top 100 advertisers and all the campaigns are from brands who want to measure their effectiveness, but we are not just looking at award-winning work – the whole range of advertising is in there from that with very strong to very weak effects.

  3. So who would consider online ads after this? With an ROI of £0.84 for £1 spend?
    Still I think that multichannel makes better results – so do I have to swallow this bitter pill? What do you recommend?

  4. Big doubts about the methodology behind the Long term impact of advertising. Specially when it comes to Print being below TV and radio being that high. I am not technical but this does not seem right.

    • Hi Brian,

      I wrote the long term impact research so can shed some light onto some of the numbers. We saw large differences by category, so this might explain why the numbers don’t reflect what you have seen previously. We did find across a whole load of campaigns that TV had the highest multiplier, largely because it is the least likely to be ignored and the most likely to create lasting emotional bonds with brands (e.g. John Lewis).

  5. Really great, thank you.
    I’m trying to track down the MBrown report referenced at 3 – Kantar Millward Brown analysis the Link ad test database (“Don’t expect customers to notice you, remember you and remember more than 1 message”) – any ideas where this can be found, ie where the graphic showing recall of messages was etc.? Good ol’ Google didn’t seem to get me to a link but perhaps I’m searching the wrong thing…

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