Kelley School Research: When It Comes to Ads, Novelty Trumps Relevance
January 30, 2009
Bloomington, IN -- As advertisers prepare to unveil the ads which will bring their products and services to the world's most famous gridiron venue, they would do well to take notice of recent research from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. According to two new studies, ads that take greater creative risks -- focusing on novelty in addition to relevancy to the consumer -- not only increase the chances of stirring the crowd and gaining cheers, they motivate consumers to be more open-minded about changing or trying new brands.
This research provides a never-before-seen look at both the "why" and "how" behind the impact of advertising creativity, which the researchers define as the interaction between divergence (or novelty) and relevancy. The results indicate that ads which have a high level of novelty but low relevance perform just as well as ads deemed both novel and relevant in more than half of 13 different measures of consumer response. In contrast, ads which are primarily relevant (but not divergent) perform much less effectively than ads that reflect both characteristics, while ads having both low relevance and low novelty were less effective on all of the measures evaluated.
The studies' results may cause advertisers to reconsider the future directions for their ad campaigns, says Robert E. Smith, professor of marketing at the Kelley School and co-author of the studies. "To play it safe, advertisers sometimes favor more traditional, straight-forward campaigns, rather than taking a chance on more creative, riskier ads proposed by their ad agencies," he said. "Right now, many of the most creative ideas that agencies develop are never even shown to clients and end up on the cutting room floor due to an inherent aversion to risk. But the results of our study should encourage advertisers to rethink these strategies and potentially embrace edgier, more 'out-of-the-box' campaigns to really break through to consumers."
Linking Ad Creativity and Stages of Consumer Response
For the first study, Smith and his colleagues identified 40 television ads representing different levels of novelty and relevance, and embedded them randomly into program segments from Entertainment Tonight to simulate normal ad viewing conditions. More than 100 study participants watched the segments, measuring the performance of the ads against thirteen key variables within five established stages of consumer response, including brand awareness, brand learning, accepting/rejecting ad claims, brand liking and brand intentions. According to Smith, this was the first-ever use of what is called the Hierarchy-of-Effects (HOE) model to evaluate how ad creativity impacts the entire response sequence. The study, recently published in the Journal of Advertising, found that only one of 13 different variables in the HOE model (message comprehension) was unaffected by the level of ad creativity.
In a second study forthcoming in
According to Smith, the findings of both studies provide powerful evidence of just how important creativity is to the success of advertisements, moving well beyond just simply gaining the attention of consumers. "We find overwhelmingly that advertisers would be wise to embrace creativity, especially now when companies need every advantage to drive consumer purchasing behavior," he said. "This is especially true for industries, such as the American automobile industry, in which resistance to change and novel ideas has threatened their very survival."