Date of publication: June 15, 1991

Author: Dave Phillips


Press evaluation research has been dominated by readership surveys, which aim to identify audience size, composition and reading habits. This type of research provides information for media buyers, but provides little, if any, insight into overall campaign effectiveness. As press advertising begins to play a more important role in the marketing mix of many brands, there will be a greater need for "holistic" quantitative evaluation of campaigns, in terms of how the execution and medium work together in achieving the desired strategic objectives for the brand. This paper explores the possible nature of such an holistic research approach and highlights factors of importance to be taken into account when designing quantitative press campaign evaluation studies. These factors are based on the knowledge gained within Research International from developing and qual-testing press ads, and conducting pre and post press evaluation studies, as well as from findings from the first stage of an exploratory development project undertaken late last year. The paper is divided into three parts. Firstly, the paper illustrates the context within which press advertising may work. This in turn demonstrates the need for research techniques designed specifically for press campaigns. The second part of the paper summarises the main findings from the initial qualitative stage of development research, involving observation and depth interviews with readers defined as "active" in particular product areas. This research provided further understanding of how people read and perceive magazines/newspapers, and the impact that this has on their reactions to, and use of, press advertising. The final part of the paper puts forward an hypothesis on the relevance of the existing quantitative approaches used in press advertising evaluation and audience research, and details a new approach which will improve the relevance and reliability of evaluation data. The two conclusions of the paper are that, i) in many ways, press advertising represents a far more complex area for research than TV advertising, and consequently, one which justifies a more tailor-made approach than is currently the norm, and ii) both TV and press research methods currently undervalue (or under-address) the issues of media context and audience disposition.

Dave Phillips


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