In the current environment, many marketers are turning to cost-efficient social media and video-sharing platforms, but in doing so they may be sending the wrong signal to the very customers they want to attract, research suggests.

The concept of signalling – that the perceived cost and scale of an advertising channel can enhance brand attributes in the eyes of the consumer – is understood if not necessarily quantified. A study by TV industry body Thinkbox and research agency house51, involving 3,600 UK adults, sought to do just that.

This found that advertising created two main kinds of signal that were key to generating sales:

‘Fitness’ signals: These are signs of financial robustness, product confidence and overall quality. For example, for an advertiser to spend large amounts of money on advertising, it is likely that their business is financially viable and that there is a level of confidence in their product or service. Many people understand that most advertising channels within the UK are regulated, so there is also a perception that the advertiser’s claims must stand up to scrutiny.

‘Social’ signals: These include elements such as brand fame, popularity and success, all of which are important but which, the report suggests, have received relatively little attention in recent years.

What the research also showed was that TV drove the strongest fitness and social signals in all categories tested and outperformed social media across every category.

While performance across each media actually varied little by category, it was TV that drove the strongest signals in all categories tested (online retail, FMCG, mobile networks and home insurance).

And social media and video-sharing sites were the advertising channels least likely to drive these signals across the categories tested.

TV still delivered stronger fitness and social signals across all categories, regardless of the age of the respondent, the research found.

For more details of the research and an assessment of the implications for advertisers and planners, read this WARC Exclusive: Signalling success: The role of signalling on media effectiveness.

Sourced from WARC