Agency Beliefs in the Power of Advertising

Michael T. Ewing
Curtin University of Technology, Australia
John Philip Jones
Syracuse University, New York


INTRODUCTION

Practitioners and scholars have been debating the relative power of advertising for almost four decades. It has been the subject of numerous books, scholarly publications and a special edition of Advertising Age (9 November 1988). Most commentators on the subject have either been academics or journalists, and not advertising practitioners. While practitioners certainly do not have all the answers, they are, one would assume, a little less confused by the myths that advertising has always generated (Jones, 1992). Helgesens investigation of Norwegian advertisers represents perhaps the first empirical examination into practitioners perceptions regarding the power of advertising (Helgesen, 2000). Helgesen found one group of clients with stronger beliefs in the effects of advertising than a second group, but no significant differences between the groups were found in terms of company size, advertising budget or respondents gender. He was therefore not able to adequately profile the client clusters. This study offers the reverse side of the coin. It solicits agency perceptions. Data have been collected from Australian agency personnel. Australia has been selected based on our opinion that it lies somewhere between the US (strong theory) and the UK (weak theory). British agency practice is heavily influenced by account planning (which of course originated in London), and which is strongly associated with the importance of brand personality and the use of qualitative research to develop it. This is totally harmonious with belief in the weak theory. Account planning is becoming established in Australia. However, in the United States it is rare in large agencies although it is employed productively in a number of small ones.

TWO THEORIES OF HOW ADVERTISING WORKS