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Annalese Sharrock Strategic Director

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Why some advertising works and others flop

Why does one advert cause sales to soar while another advert barely causes a blip on the revenue radar? Hayden Shearman unravels a recent study from Neilsen into what makes advertising tick.

In 2006, Neilsen tracked the advertising and sales of several hundred brands and discovered that 65 per cent of a brand’s sales increases that resulted from a particular advert were due to its creative content. In other words, the vast majority of an advert’s success came down to the actual quality of the advert rather than it’s placement, the media it is placed in or any other targeting that might affect sales.

Eleven years on, Neilsen have repeated the study by looking at 863 different advertising campaigns. The 2017 study found some significant shifts in the reasons why advertising is floating or not. These findings are as follows:

Content is Still King

The quality of the creative content is still the most important factor for driving sales (driving 47% of sales lift, down from 65%).

Media Choice is Becoming More Important

Despite content still being number one, the media chosen for that creative is playing a much larger role than before (36% sales lift, up from only 15% in 2006).

Nail the Targeting

Most campaigns do a poor job of targeting their advertisements to consumers likely to buy their product, especially on digital advertising (this is surprising when you think how easy it is to target on digital advertising).

Recency Matters

It’s critical to understand your customer’s purchasing cycles because timing advertising closer to purchases can boost sales dramatically.


So, there you have it, make great ads, put them in the right media, target those people who are most likely to by your ads, and advertise in the 48 hours before they typically buy (true for most consumer products).

It’s common sense stuff but it’s important to have some rules to follow when looking to make every advertising dollar go as far as it can.

Read the full Neilsen study here.