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Advertising Theory: Translating into Practice

We often say media is both an art and a science - we need to use the data (TGI, DILO, econometrics) to understand where messages need to appear and an art (culture relevance/consumer knowledge) to understand the motivators of our target audience. We have always worked to blend the data with the consumer truth to create meaningful campaigns. 

With Richard Thaler being awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for Economics, for his work in the field of behavioural economics it does make one wonder if the art is more important than the science especially considering that Thaler is deemed a controversial winner due to the lack of heavy data.   

Thaler’s work in behavioural economics is, in short, is the science of decision-making which is hugely important to our industry. As advertisers, we’re constantly trying to get consumers to either continue their use of a product or service or to trial a product. The business of persuasion has long been discussed by the likes of Dan Ariely and Robert Cialdini but is it still relevant for advertisers and marketers?

Society today is becoming more sceptical and cynical. As a result, building and maintaining brand trust in a ‘post-truth world’ is increasingly important. The 2017 consumer is paradoxically both more informed than ever, and overloaded with information. This means the current decision-making process is quickly reduced to fewer brands and products in their consideration set and often go with their ‘default choice’ - the brand that offers security and reassurance .There are many factors that come into play in decision-making, most of which are subconscious. Thaler and other behavioural economists believe that by working to identify these specific triggers, we can drive brand sales as well as brand loyalty.

Examples like, Volkswagen's "Fun Theory", for instance, or Sussex's "Embrace Life" seatbelt ad, are agency work that successfully reframe our thinking towards predisposed behaviours.

If behavioural economics is the business of persuasion, then Byron Sharp focuses on the science of persuasion. This doesn’t necessarily mean that one needs to be chosen over the other. In fact, when we use both in tangent we can develop better strategies for our clients. Surprisingly this is not that common in media planning and something that needs to be remedied if we are to innovate and truly influence as an industry. The real success stories will be brands that can meld the art and science of advertising.