The dangers of common sense

Les Binet

Recently, a planner I know asked me a question: How does advertising actually work? That's a very good question, and it's not one you hear people asking much these days. Some 20 years ago, there was a lot more debate about how advertising works. These days, there seems to be much more of a consensus about the basic principles of communication, and the focus has shifted to understanding the role of the various new channels that have emerged.

But do we really understand the basic principles of how advertising works? Evidence from the IPA dataBANK (Binet and Field, 2007) suggests that there are some fundamental flaws in the assumptions that most marketing people work by.

Two years ago, Peter Field and I began a major research project to try to find out how advertising really works. We analysed the raw data from nearly 1,000 IPA cases, to find out what actually drives business success. Not what wins awards, but what drives sales and profit.