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 not."

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

Meghan Keane

Published 15 December, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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Comments (4)


Matt Law

The way this survey was constructed probably had a lot to do with the outcome. If you ask people if they are affected by advertising, they generally speaking say 'no'. If you look at people's behaviour before and after an advertising campaign, the picture is quite different. Surprise surprise, an increase in marketing activity normally results in an increase in sales (or the ability of the manufacturer to sustain a price rise).

The questions posed to these people were effectively the same as asking them two questions - 'are you easily led?' and 'are you a canny shopper?'. Most people, believing themselves to be intelligent, wonderful people (as most non-depressed people tend to) would answer 'no' and 'yes' to those two.

A more interesting analysis would be looking at to what extent likeability of advertising maps with increase in sales volume, value or profit.

Also no surprise that the retail advertising and marketing association would put across the view that ads are not so important and coupons and 'perceived savings' are the MOST IMPORTANT thing!

over 8 years ago


Paul Wright

Well said Matt, I couldnt have put this any better myself. This is probably the most pointless survey ever conceived. To learn more about how people react to survey's I would recommend the book - Nudge by Richard H. Thaler. An excellent book. Probably a book that the people who compiled this survey should read

over 8 years ago


Akash Sharma

@Matt - Great point highlighted above, I think effective advertising still works if its seen by the right target audience, As David Ogilvy said "It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night. I doubt if more than one campaign in a hundred contains a big idea. " So the big idea has to be the benefits which the product offers and something to remember as well.

over 8 years ago


David Burton

Well said Akash

Just to stir things up a bit more...

So much current advertising is driven by price messages (IMHO). - So that being the case it's hardly surprising that the public exposed to the advertising say they 'buy on price'...

... because, apart from anything else they've been told to by the advertisers.

I wonder... Are creatives and agencies being trussed up and gagged by briefs which tell them to produce price driven, magnolia...?

And if so, would this research (if properly constructed) have come to a different conclusion in a land full of insightful, creative, witty, value building promotions?  

over 8 years ago

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