Category Archives: Advertising Evaluation

Advertising Response Rates by Channel

Published / by Simon Foster

Understanding response rates by media channel is a vital component of marketing and media planning. If you know the response rates, media costs and likely conversion rates of each channel you are using, you can forecast the ROI of your planned activity – before you spend any budget. This helps to de-risk your marketing activity and optimise how budgets are deployed to maximise ROI.

Unfortunately, many marketing and media channels are planned, negotiated, delivered and evaluated in silos. This means it can be difficult to get a set of comparative response rates which allow you to forecast how well any one channel may work for your business or brand. If you can’t compere them side by side it’s difficult to optimise budget distribution – particularly for customer acquisition activity.

Guide to response rates by media communication channels

With over twenty years’ experience of planning, managing and evaluating campaigns across practically all mainstream media channels, I thought it would be useful to share the metrics that I use as standard response metrics. These are given as percentage response rates of the audience seeing the ad.

Note: These are the response rates I would expect to see based on my experience. They should be used  as a guide and are not a guarantee. They are subject to the caveats listed below.

The caveats

  1. Response rates are driven by a number of factors including the product, offer, the creative treatment and the audience selection (media). Ideally, you should work to the highest possible standard in each of these four areas. Compromise on any of these factors will reduce response rates.
  2. Most channels have sub-sets of response rates depending on how the channel is being used. For example, TV ads can be “brand awareness” ads, “brand response” ads or “direct response ads”. Each of these have different levels of responsiveness. Brand awareness ads which are designed to change attitudes rather than short term behaviour will not deliver a high response rate.
  3. You must factor in the cost of media on a per audience basis. A favourite mistake of response rate observers is to look at response rates without factoring in channel costs. Here’s an example; the response rate from DRTV is about 100 times lower than the response rate from DM, but remember, DM costs around 100 times more per person than TV. In reality, both channels may produce a similar cost per response. That’s why it’s important to look at both factors when analysing and forecasting responses.
  4. Response rates aren’t everything; what generates revenue is sales so you need to factor in a conversion rate from response to sale.  As a general rule, personal channels like DM tend to convert at a higher rate than broadcast or online display. You can have a channel with a low response rate and high conversion rate performing as well in cost per sale terms as a channel with a high response rate and a low conversion rate.
  5. Marketing activity is subject to diminishing returns; response rates will fall as budgets increase.

Advertising Evaluation Techniques

Published / by Simon Foster

Techniques for tracking advertising are often discussed by both advertisers and agencies as they seek to identify and maximise the ROI effect of media budgets. Deciding on which techniques to use can raise a number of issues depending on the data and budgets available for advertising evaluation.  All are data dependent which means that if you are not collecting response or sales data you will need to. Costs for implementation can vary but should always be viewed in the context of the potential savings that can be made from subsequent optimsation. For example, if a regression model costs £25k, but can optimise a £2.5m budget to save £500k, then the £25k is money very well spent. Here is a short summary of advertising evaluation techniques.

You will  notice there is no mention of coverage or frequency here. That’s because coverage and frequency are useful media planning metrics but they are not direct measures of ROI – coverage and frequency are measures of audience delivery not sales response. Reach and frequency may be linked to sales response but in my opinion spend levels or GRP weights and diminishing returns in specific time intervals are more robust ways of understanding sales response to advertising.

Facebook ‘likes’ don’t increase brand preference or sales

Published / by Simon Foster

Here’s an iron for the fire: “Facebook ‘likes’ do not cause increased brand preference or increased sales so marketing campaigns designed to increase the number of ‘likes’ are unlikely to increase brand preference or sales.”

I was moved to develop and explore this hypothesis after reading an article on the real cost of brand building in social media by Mark Ritson who is a professor of marketing, formerly at London Business School. Ritson is renowned for injecting some good solid critical thinking into the often sloppy logic of marketing. Ritson argues that whilst there may be apparent relationships between brand preference, share or sales and Facebook ‘likes’, the relationship between these factors is unlikely to be causal.  Causality is important. It’s about understanding the the cause of relationships between variables in order to assess their significance; just because there is a relationship between two things, it doesn’t mean that one of them causes the other. To say with certainty that one factor drives the other, causality has to be proved.  Ritson argues that causality is being overlooked or even ignored in studies that set out to consider the value of Facebook likes in relation to brand performance.

There have been a number of studies which show that the most popular brands have the highest numbers of Facebook fans. but this shouldn’t come as a surprise to any marketer with more than a handful of brain cells.  Common sense tells us that the most popular brands are likely to have the most Facebook ‘likes’ because they have higher numbers of users and advocates.  But we need to remember that these  ‘likes’ are an expression of pre-existing brand preference and not a cause of it. Moreover, when studies try to assess the financial value of a Facebook ‘like’ they find that Facebook fans spend more on a product than Facebook users who are not fans.    One study found that Facebook likers of Starbucks coffee spent more in store than non-likers.  Well that shouldn’t come as a surprise either. Those consumers who prefer certain brands are likely to spend more money on those brands – after all isn’t that the whole purpose of consumer marketing and the process of building brands?

In both cases, there is a relationship between Facebook likes and brand performance but the relationship is caused by the strengths of the brand that almost certainly existed before the impact of Facebook. The Facebook like is not the cause of brand preference but simply a reflection of it.

If we use logic to extend these observations into prediction we can say that if likes do not cause brand preferences or increased sales, then strategies and campaigns that seek to increase the number of likes will not increase brand preference or sales. However, the predictive power of logic doesn’t stop there; brand owners developing social media strategies to grow likes risk creating “false-positive” brand advocates. These false-positives are consumers who have no genuine relationship with the brand or product but simply click the like because they are incentivised to do so. Corralling opportunistic consumers into Facebook fan pages may actually skew the brand’s Facebook page and community away from genuine fans. Worse still,  subsequent eCRM activity to develop these prospects may prove to be far less fruitful than initially anticipated.

Marketers, Ritson argues, would do well to remember the factors that really did build their brand preference.  These are likely to be product quality, availability, consumption experience and visual branding. They might also bear in mind the fact that research company TNS says that 61% of Britons do not want to engage with brands via social media and suggest that much of what is being build by brands in the social media space amounts to little more than “digital waste”. I wouldn’t go that far, but I would say that brands need to tread carefully when investing in these areas.

When we plan any social media activity at Teqtonic our objective is always to add new value to a brand in some way. That invariably involves strategies that take the consumer and the brand beyond the territory of the like. If you are going to have a meaningful social media strategy you need to think in CRM terms.  Some of your brand advocates may be gathering as a segment within certain social media environments. You need to be there to recognise and respond to their statement of loyalty and preference in a relevant way.  When you do meet up with them, make sure you give them something that reflects their commitment to you. And whatever you do, don’t mix these high value customers with competition chasers who’ll move as quickly to the next brand as they did to yours.

Social Media Metrics Made Simple: Focus on Sales and Customers

Published / by Simon Foster

I am amazed that so many people spend so much time defining and discussing social media metrics. Why? Because the answers marketers (and shareholders) want are very, very simple. Marketers want only one thing from marketing budget investment. Marketers want sales – sales are key; almost everything else is a proxy for some point on the journey to the sale. Make no mistake, companies and marketers are working to deliver sales. Sales are the elixir of life for commerce. Sales drive economies of scale and increase profitability. Sales are the business. In fact, sales are business. Period.  And despite this,  the ever expanding list of social media metrics contains virtually no hard commercial measures. Here is a list of 30 popular social media metrics I am aware of as of today:

  1. Active network size
  2. Amplification rate
  3. Applause rate
  5. Channel views
  7. Downloads / Installs
  8. Email subscribes
  9. Engagement
  10. Fans
  11. Favourites
  12. Feed subscribes (RSS)
  14. Following
  15. Forwards
  16. “Influence”
  17. Klout score
  19. Lists
  20. Mentions
  21. Reactions
  22. Re-Tweets
  23. Sentiment
  25. Subscribes
  26. Tags
  27. Tweets
  28. Tweet Reach
  29. Tweet Velocity ( I like this one!)
  30. Wall posts

There is a big problem here. Most of these metrics have little or no commercial meaning. What for example is the value of a “Like”? A like is no more than a mouse click on a web page. It requires no effort and takes a fraction of a second to perform.  A like requires no trade in information between the user and the item being liked. Anyone can do it and it signifies virtually nothing. Even the popular ‘email address for download’ exchange has limited value; I have downloaded a number of papers from companies it’s unlikely I’ll ever do business with – even though I am sufficiently interested in the content being provided to exchange my email address for it.

It’s ironic that whilst social media commentators and practitioners are busy churning out metrics with no real commercial meaning, traditional media is moving away from proxy data like coverage and frequency and into measuring and proving commercial behavioural change (fancy talk for sales) resulting from media activity.  It seems to me that social media evaluation has slipped into reverse gear and no none has noticed.  If social media is to advance its cause it needs to show either a direct or indirect link to more commercial measures like sales and customers. Is that possible? Well yes it is and it’s relatively straightforward.

All communication and media channels including digital media feed into sales funnels. Digital media traffic is the most measurable of these and can be tracked and measured in great detail from clicks to basket values.  This means it is possible to measure the commercial value of traffic generated by social media. If your Facebook page is generating traffic you can identify it in your inbound traffic logs. And if you can track the traffic through to sales baskets you can measure the sales generated by Facebook. And then you can start looking at your social media ROI numbers. If your Facebook page is referring 1,000 sales a month with a profit of £10 per sale, and costing only £1000 per month to manage and maintain, it’s making a valuable contribution to your business. If other hand it is producing 100 sales per month with £10 profit per sale and costs £10,000 per month to manage and maintain, then you are throwing money away.

The truth is that many social media variables only exist because of a strong supply side data push. Social media metrics are easy to produce; be they likes, friends, tweets, connections or channel subscribers they’re just descriptive data. At worst these metrics are a distraction for marketers. At best they are a rough proxy that needs to be calibrated with more meaningful commercial data. What marketers and business leaders want is sales, share, customers, customer value and profit. If social media sticks with likes, friends and subscribers sooner or later it will have to show what they mean.

2011 marketing predictions: The death of mass marketing has been greatly exaggerated

Published / by Simon Foster

No doubt there will be many a New Year marketing prediction over the next few days.  The most common theme is likely to be that mass marketing will decline and be replaced by new and emerging channels and techniques. This year, I’m not going to make any such prediction. This year I’m standing in defence of mass marketing and mass media. I predict that mass marketing as a concept will be as strong this time next year as it is now.  I predict that marketing’s big beasts, the jumbo jets, supertankers and super-trucks of marketing otherwise known as TV, print and outdoor will not die in 2011 nor any time soon.  This year I’m flying the flag for the future of traditional mass marketing and the media channels that enable it.  Why? Because I think mass marketing has been tied down by too many critics for too long. Here then is my defence of mass marketing:

  1. Critics of mass marketing argue that it can’t work because it’s so “expensive”. This has to be a flawed argument. How can something not work simply because it is expensive? Things don’t fail because they’re expensive.  In fact, things that are expensive are, in my experience, likely to be of better quality and deliver a better experience. Yes, mass marketing is expensive from a capital perspective, but that’s because it delivers mass audiences – usually millions of consumers several times over in a campaign – at a very low unit cost. In other words, mass marketing delivers mass value. Here’s an example: If you are buying TV audience at £5 per thousand reaching 20m viewers five times then yes, it is going to cost £500,000  – but you will have delivered your message to a huge chunk of the UK population in a medium that builds brand credibility like no other.  The issue is not simply the overall cost of the activity, but whether or not the activity is delivering the brand or sales shifts required.  Unfortunately, not many of mass marketing’s critics understand how this type of value works. How many of these critics have examined the cost structures of mass marketing channels like TV and print?  How many of them know that it costs a tiny fraction of 1p to reach a consumer for 30 seconds on TV? How many of them realise that TV can be less expensive on a unit of audience basis than many online display, search or affiliate channels?
  2. Critics of mass marketing argue that it can’t work because it is “wasteful”. “It’s not targeted” the critics complain, “it reaches people who are not in your target audience” or “you are buying wastage”. But do they realise that the whole point of mass marketing is to sell products that large segments of the population want to buy? Food, drinks, home appliances, cars, computers, toys, mobile phones, holidays, credit cards, bank accounts, mortgages, furniture and so on. Mass marketing isn’t wasteful when used with products that almost everyone might want to buy in the near future.
  3. Some critics of mass marketing argue that it simply “doesn’t work”. But how many of these critics have pored over the results of the many tests, research projects, case studies and evaluation papers designed to quantify the sales effect of mass media? How many have studied the works of marketing academics and thought-leaders like Simon Broadbent, John Phillip Jones, Byron Sharp, Erwin Ephron, Giep Franzen or Colin MacDonald? How many of them understand the relationship between a £500k TV adspend and a 10% category share gain? Here’s an example. If a brand has a 10% share of a £200m category its share is worth £20m. If a mass media campaign costing £500k helps the brand increase share by 10% from £20m to £22m, then the adpsend of £500k has secured £2m in sales.
  4. Of course if points 1-3 fail to help you win the argument, you might want to ask one of mass marketing’s critics which brands they consume in different categories. Do they drink an unknown brand of soft drink, use an unknown make of PC, contract with a mobile phone network no-one has ever heard of or fly on that airline whose name no-one can remember?  No, they drink Coca-Cola, they use Apple, Dell or IBM, they make phone calls through O2, Orange and Vodafone and they fly BA, BMI, EasyJet or Virgin.  If these critics use a well known brand at least some of the time then somewhere along the way, mass marketing has done its job.
  5. If point 4 doesn’t work, you could invite a critic of mass marketing to tell Simon Cowell that TV and newspapers aren’t effective communication vehicles and see what he says. You might need to stand well back.

And finally, earlier this month the Advertising Association/Warc reported that UK advertising enjoyed its best year since 2004.  “In Q3 TV, out of home and internet were the top performers posting growth of 15.8%, 12.4% and 11% respectively. Direct mail posted a 7% rise, its first growth since Q1 2006″.Although the base was low in 2009 and the future remains “clouded by economic factors”, UK advertising expenditure is expected to increase by 2.3% in 2011.

Not quite dead yet then…. Here’s to a successful year for the big beasts of marketing in 2011.

Advertising Frequency and Diminishing Marginal Utility

Published / by Simon Foster


Economists have a concept called Diminishing Marginal Utility. This means that each additional time a consumer consumes something they get less satisfaction from consuming it. So, if I have one coffee, I find it very satisfying, two could be OK, but by the time I get to three I’m not getting much additional satisfaction, infact, I’m going off coffee pretty fast. And if I were to drink ten coffees I’d feel like I was being tortured.

Now let me apply this thinking to the world of TV advertising and in particular, sponsorship. In the UK, quality drama is a favourite for sponsorship. One of the reasons for this is that these programmes attract a high quality loyal audience who make an appointment to view. Certain drama strands can be sponsored heavily in a cross-programme deal covering different programmes in the same genre. Whilst this may appear to present great media value it can mean over-exposure for both brands and consumers. Seeing a break bumper a couple of times is fine, but seeing the same branded break bumper ten times in the same evening can seem like drinking that tenth cup of coffee.

Dairy Milk gets the gorilla, but Galaxy gets the growth

Published / by Simon Foster


So, Dairy Milk with its Drumming Gorilla TV ad campaign has posted a sluggish 2% market share growth whilst ‘run of the mill’ Galaxy has romped home with a 12% growth. Research has shown that the Gorilla ad is more memorable than Galaxy activity, but clearly this success in recall does not seem to have translated into success in sales. Quite rightly, this result immediately ignites a discussion about the sales value of creativity. You can get into some of that here.

Not entirely unconnected to this is the debate that took place on the 4th August at the IPA – “Who makes better planners? Planners or creatives?” Veteran creative Dave Trott and planning sophistocrat David Golding battled it out with Trott arguing that it’s time planners got back to building sales rather than using advertising “to provide a window on a brand’s soul and to build the brand’s ‘equity’ in people’s minds”. Golding defended the principle of using the brand as a source of insight, and quite valiantly by all reports.

I’ve worked on projects with both of these characters, with David Golding on an existing client account at WCRS and Dave Trott on a creative pitch at WTCS (as was). Dave Trott worked in an interesting way. He did his own planning in his own mind, based on very considerable experience. His approach was intuitive – he visualised the target audience as people he knew (in this case his mother and her friends) and asked himself what type of message would engage her. Then he wrote those messages down and turned them into a visualized campaign for TV and press. Trott’s campaign was a distillation of the communication problem, solved, simplified and then visualised. Dave Golding on the other hand was measured, considerate, analytical and logical. He’d be as likely to base a campaign on what his mother thought as a judge would be to discuss a legal technicality with a courtroom security guard. The work that resulted was memorable and strong. So here’s the question – if the insight for the Dairy Milk Gorilla campaign were to have originated from the grey matter of either Golding or Trott, which would it be?