Brett Rolfe responds to survey which claims 57% of Australians couldn't remember a good advert

Brett Rolfe-thumb-300x206-252071.jpgBrett Rolfe (left), chief strategy officer at Naked, has provided responsive commentary to a recent Magnum Opus Partners survey, which found that less than half of Australians could remember a good advert. Rolfe argues that the measurements of the research are misplaced, and compels the industry to appreciate other, more valuable forms of brand communication.

It's a big leap to say people couldn't remember a 'good advert' when, at best, the research suggests they can't remember an ad that made them feel good. Obviously if a domestic violence ad made you feel good, it wasn't doing its job, so asking about ads that 'you remember feeling positive about' is an odd thing to do.
Focusing on ads I can actively remember is missing an increasing portion of the point. Can you remember a joke you thought was really funny recently? I can't. But I know I've heard them - and I know I laughed. Conscious recall is not the same as getting you to behave a certain way. I can't recall a single price promotion in-store I've seen recently - but I know I bought products because they were on promotion.

Beyond that, how much are we going to continue to rely on entertaining 'feel good' TV ads being the Holy Grail, when viewers are continuing to move to ad-free platforms? From sponsorships to peer referral, from product placement to influencer advocacy, from branded entertainment to retail experiences - everything a brand does communicates, and increasingly brands are looking for smarter, less traditional ways of getting the job done.

We also have an increasing appreciation for the role that unconscious cues and cognition play in driving behaviour. Work like Daniel Kahneman's model of System 1 and System 2 clearly demonstrates how much can be achieved in marketing without the need for obtrusive 'attention grabbing' content that consumers perceive as advertising.

Naked was founded on a core premise - Everything Communicates. Not just memorable TV ads that make you feel good.


Brett makes some important points, and we thank him for taking the time to respond to the first press release on the MOP Awareness Survey. We do the research not only for our own clients but to engender industry debate, and it's great when a colleague takes the time to engage.

Some of his points are slightly off the mark though. With the help of Th?NK Global we very carefully phrased the key questions in the research - they weren't just about things that were "liked and disliked", even if that is the shorthand for the findings.

These were the actual questions:

1. Thinking about all the advertising you have experienced recently, can you remember any advertising that had a positive impact on you - which changed your mind or made you think positively about the advertiser, or which encouraged you to buy something?

2. Thinking about all the advertising you have experienced recently, can you remember any that had a negative impact on you - which made you think negatively about the advertiser, or which discouraged you from buying something?

We also do make the point, in the press release on the findings, to say that just because something isn't picked up by these questions, one way or the other, that this doesn't mean the advertising is simply "not working". Yes, unconscious (or subconscious) recall is obviously important, of course.

But what was starkly obvious about the survey was the way in which "standout" for "water cooler" ads have declined, and we are trying to work out why. And I have to stress, this is professionally conducted research, not just our opinions.

As far as our opinions as to why, people can head to and read more, and also listen to me interviewed on ABC Radio about the findings. One important thing for us all to decide, for example, is whether the huge switch of advertisers' money into online advertising is having an unexpected negative effect - it is hurting our ability to establish, grow and sustain consumers' understanding of brands and their recollection of them.

As for the overall survey, there are two more releases to come, and if anyone thinks THIS release was newsworthy, we encourage you to keep your eyes open for the next one, on channel effectiveness.

Some very interesting results being pored over as we speak.

Yes, "Everything communicates". No arguments there, Brett. The real issue, though, is how well does everything communicate, and what is actually being communicated?

Dear Steve said:

Dear Steve,
You have failed to respond to Brett's fundamental points. In particular, the indisputable role that 'unconscious memory' plays in effecting behaviour and how ads that illicit a negative response are every bit as effective as ads people respond to positively. But of particular concern, your comment 'hurting our ability to establish, grow and sustain consumers' understanding and their recollection of them' - is simply wrong. Whether someone can recall something is irrelevant. How can anyone consciously recollect something they are not conscious of? I appreciate you drumming up some PR for your agency, but the methodology you've used, whether yours, or your research company's, ensures your 'research' is incapable of answering the very questions it was established to answer.

Dear Steve said:

Dear Steve,

You've failed to respond to the key points in Brett's article. So, here they are in my words.

- that a negative response to advertising can be as great, if not greater, than a positive response

- that unconscious memory plays as big, if not bigger, role in effecting behaviour as
conscious memory.

And some of your comments cannot go left unchallenged. Here are just two, and I quote:

1] 'Yes, unconscious (or subconscious) recall is obviously important, of course'.

It's so important you don't even try to measure it! [But you publish your findings nevertheless - remarkable].

2] 'The real issue, though, is how well does everything communicate, and what is actually being communicated?'

How would you know, if having acknowledged yourself that the unconscious recall is 'obviously important', you rely on nothing more than conscious responses to determine your findings.

If you submitted your 'research' as a thesis for your Masters, or Doctorate, there isn't an institution in the world that would approve it.

By all means promote your agency [and yourself], but don't make claims of 'findings' [and I use the word 'finding' loosely] your research methodology has zero chance of substantiating.

And as much as I appreciate your invitation to listen to you on ABC radio, may I suggest you listen to people like Byron Sharp at the Ehrenberg Bass, or Prof Emeritus Ricard Silberstein at Neuro-Insight; because they can provide you the answers to Brett's questions, because from your response to his article, you obviously can't.

Leeroy Dubya said:

Go for a run or help at a charity shop if you are answering your own comments on a nothing story....

Yolly said:

We value the debate: well-respected commentator Mark Ritson had a less critical view of the value of the research.

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