April 13, 2010
 

ROI: Now You See It, Now You Don't

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This "ROI" Thing
It's not really about advertising

By Gene DeWitt

Advertising must of course generate results but the nonsense being bandied about in discussions of ROI are not really discussions of advertising. Deliver a message, deliver a result. That's direct response. And, yes, direct mail and often the internet as a transactional medium can do just that.

But the great brands of today were not built by direct response ads. Brands were and are built on awareness and preference and that's what constitutes ROI for advertising.

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In talking about ROI, then, let's talk about the things that can be measured that advertising can affect in a concrete, finite universe, things like awareness, attitude, and brand preference.

Why? Because, frankly, the path from ad to sale is way too long to be easily measured because of such 'interventions' as pricing, competitive promotion, distribution, etc., etc., etc.

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So let's take the initiative in positioning advertising where its strengths and marketers needs are, in building Brands. Once a brand achieves awareness and preference, the rest can be left to the marketers and corporate managers. It's their job to see that the product or service is put in front of customers and that customers are well cared for, etc.

No amount of advertising is going to put me back on a Delta airplane because I've been so poorly treated by their employees. But in spite of its bankruptcy, I'm likely to fly United because their folks for the most part truly are helpful, even friendly sometimes. Think of that, "The Friendly Skies of United"; sounds like a brand-building ad.

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I think that it's time that the advertising industry stopped defending itself from unjust and uninformed critics who want advertising to accomplish things that it isn't designed or intended to do. Advertising is not less effective than it's been in the past any more than television audiences are declining. (TV audiences are in fact increasing and major new industries are being built on people's desire for more places and times they can see their favorite TV shows. As for advertising, the only "evidence" I've seen in the numerous press articles about its supposed decline in effectives is an unsourced "feeling". Hardly enough to condemn an industry on.

Gene DeWitt is chairman of DeWitt Media Options. He can be reached at Gene DeWitt

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