Much of the business of advertising comes down to creative. But when consumers make purchasing decisions, the quality of brand advertising is not what makes people reach for their wallets.

At least that’s what the results of a new survey from the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association point to. The study, conducted by Big Research, found that while consumers appreciate good creative, they predictably make decisions based on the savings they think they’re getting. 

In their annual study, RAMA found that Walmart overtook Target this year as the company with shoppers’ favorite commercial. Best Buy, Gap, Macy’s, Old NAcy, Kmart, Sears, Hallmark and Kohl’s rounded out the top ten list of most popular ad campaigns.  Crispin Porter & Bogusky, which workds with Best Buy, Gap and Old Navy, was the agency that’s work appeared most often in the list. 

But when it came to spending money, consumers were not bent on spending according to the level of amusement enduced by watching the brands’ advertising.

Only 17% said they were motivated to shop at a particular retailer
because the company created their favorite ad. 50% said good ads did
not make them shop at a company.

Instead, previous brand loyalty seemed to be the biggest motivating factor for consumers. 1/3 said their
favorite ad had no impact on their purchase decisions, because they
already shop with the company.

Mike Gatti, executive director at the Retail Advertising and Marketing Associatio, tells AdAge:

“[Consumers] probably still get a kick out of the commercials, but
there are a lot of brand loyalties out there. … [But it] does
position [retailers] in the minds of people whether they shop there or

Instead of creative, shoppers focused on savings. In 2009, coupons emerged as the greatest motivating factor for consumers. 45% of respondants said coupons encouraged them to shop with a retailer. Word of mouth and advertising inserts
influenced 27% of consumers, while TV motivated
23% of shoppers and newspapers got another 22% into stores.

According to Phil Rist, exec VP-strategic initiatives at Big Research:

“Whether they
were saving on shipping or using an in-store coupon, shoppers dug
through every avenue of potential savings before choosing to commit.”

While individual ads may not be the ultimate factor that drives consumers into stores, brands would be foolish to skip over that aspect of their branding efforts. The companies that made it into the list of top ten most popular campaigns are also some of the biggest retailers in the U.S. And while a specific campaign may not fuel purchasing decisions, consumers remember brands that they like. Over time, good creative is an important tool for motivating consumers, whether they realize it or not. 

Image: RAMA