What’s the most important element in ads?

According to a Nielsen Catalina study the most important element of any ad is…creative.  However, you should remember that[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””] TV commercials that “entertain us” might have great recall, but won’t necessarily turn your prospects into customers.[/inlinetweet]

We tend to think of advertising as an incredibly stable industry. Ad expenditures rise and fall with the economy, but have hovered around 1.5% of GDP for nearly a century. But we stand at a critical juncture. People are splitting their time among more media platforms than ever before—TV, of course, but also digital, mobile, radio, over-the-top, social, magazines, etc.—and thousands of new brands are launched every year to compete for attention and hard-earned dollars. It’s become an enormous jigsaw puzzle for advertisers to reach consumers.

The study by Nielsen and Nielsen Catalina Solutions (NCS) is based on two new meta-studies and more than 10 years of experience linking advertising to sales results. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]The project was created to prove that advertising not only works, but works well, and can be as accountable to sales as other elements in the marketing mix[/inlinetweet]. Promotion, for instance, had been gaining much traction until the last two years, when the tide was stemmed and advertising began to regain a small bit of share back.[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””] If the ad industry wants to really grow its share in the mix, it needs to demonstrate a strong return on investment and the ability to capitalize on the latest tools, technologies and best practices.[/inlinetweet]


  • As in 2006,[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””] creative quality is the most important factor for driving sales[/inlinetweet], but most likely due to new breakthroughs in data and technology, media is playing a much larger role than before.
  • [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Less than half of all campaigns are doing a good job of targeting buyers of the brand or category[/inlinetweet]— 80% of TV campaigns are On-Buyer Target and 31% of digital campaigns are On-Buyer Target.
  • TV ads generally have consistently high quality creative—[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]as opposed to digital ads, which have a wider range of quality, including both much higher and much lower[/inlinetweet].
  • For large cross media campaigns, reach comes primarily from television.
  • Understanding consumer purchase cycles and timing advertising closer to purchases can boost sales dramatically.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]DIGITAL DOESN’T EXTEND THE REACH OF TV CAMPAIGNS WITH LESS THAN 60% REACH[/inlinetweet]

The mantra for digital reach has been that digital extends the reach of television. The research shows that this is not true for television campaigns with lower reach. Random duplicate estimates the contribution one medium can have on another if the audiences are randomly duplicated.

Instead of digital delivering non-TV viewers, the reach of the combined media is consistently lower than random for campaigns with less than 60% reach. In other words, when digital campaigns are “large,” meaning reach that is greater than 60%, we see that digital does some sometimes add incremental reach.


Creative is always an important element in ANY advertising, however [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]marketers need to also focus on the path between awareness/reach and purchase[/inlinetweet].  For example, once a prospect becomes aware of a new flavor of snacks they probably will try the product on the next trip to the market as opposed to an ad for a new car which will lead to a lot of online research before a purchase decision is made.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]While reach is a key metric in any advertising too many brands don’t subscribe to effective reach.[/inlinetweet] The mindset of “we have to be on the air” actually could backfire, especially in an age when consumers can google your brand and get negative reviews (i.e. Liberty Mutual).

Marketers also need to be aware that more and more people are cutting the cord and time shifting to get away from ads as well as costs. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]The rise of ad blockers on browsers should be a wake-up message that consumers are tired of seeing ads.[/inlinetweet]

About richmeyer

Rich is a passionate marketer who is able to quickly understand what turns a prospect into a customer. He challenges the status quo and always asks "what can we do better"? He knows how to take analytics and turn them into opportunities and he is a great communicator.

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