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Brands must 'question ad theories'

News, 21 January 2016

NEW YORK: Marketers and researchers should "question advertising theory" and existing planning frameworks if they want to thrive in the digital age, a new study has argued.

In the pages of the 2015–2016 winter edition of the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR), five authors located in three different timezones across the globe empirically tested the long-used Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM).

And in Does Traditional Advertising Theory Apply to the Digital World? A Replication Analysis Questions the Relevance of the Elaboration Likelihood Model, the scholars conclude, "Practitioners should question planning frameworks that use traditional advertising models such as the ELM, as they likely do not reflect how consumers think in a digital world."

Gayle Kerr (Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane Australia), Don E. Schultz (Northwestern University and president of Agora, Inc.), Philip Kitchen (ESC Rennes School of Business), Frank J. Mulhern (Medill School, Northwestern University) and Park Beede (Higher Colleges of Technology in the United Arab Emirates) had further advice for brands, too.

"Advertising researchers owe much to the halcyon days of mass media. That includes the entertainment of television series 'I Love Lucy', the information-gathering machine of the BBC, and the power of television to build emotional brand connections.

"In Western cultures, the mass-media period – roughly from 1950 to 1980 – particularly was fruitful, encouraging a new wave of advertising research."

Journal of Advertising Research

Read the full 2015–2016 winter edition of the Journal of Advertising Research and explore the publication's archives – at no charge – until the end of January at the Journal's new website
But, they advise, "The world has changed radically since those days of mass-media dominance. And, advertising has changed as well. A simplistic way to measure this change is through advertising expenditures.

"Between 2013 and 2014, advertising expenditure grew in North America (+5.4%) and the United Kingdom (+7.2%); was flat in continental Europe, notably Germany (+1.5%) and France (–2.1%); and soared in the emerging markets of China (+12.5%), India (+14.2%) and Brazil (+14.7%)."

And, they conclude, "As an objective akin to finding a way to 'world peace', revisiting and replicating advertising theory is an overwhelming task. It is likely that such efforts will upset a number of academicians who have built their entire careers on following the dictates of 'the literature'.

"The onus is on the marketing-research industry and academia to question advertising theory: when everything around it has changed, why should any particular theory stay the same? And if advertising theory is not questioned, subsequent advertising research will become increasingly irrelevant."

Data sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by Warc staff