Simulation gives insight into long-term advertising effects

Robert Stratton

Emergence is a phenomenon that occurs when simple, low-level processes interact to create a complex overall pattern. Well-known examples include the way that crowds move, birds flock and sand dunes form.

Although each element in the process is moving according to simple rules, the high-level pattern that emerges can be hard to explain or predict without reconstructing how the individual components interact to create it.

In the same way, the different components of customer behaviour can combine in ways that make an emerging pattern of sales or product usage difficult to analyse from a top-down perspective.

Most studies of advertising effects are carried out on total level data. Consequently, most evaluation and scenario planning works on the implicit assumption that consumers are identical to each other, and patterns of product usage are uniform across categories.