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News Plus 28 Jun 2021 - 2 min read

Prof Byron Sharp's 'mental availability' laws confirmed, advance with attention metrics to reinvent advertising 'share of voice' and business impact: Advertising Council study

By Danielle Long and Paul McIntyre

L-R: Peter Field; Karen Nelson-Field; Rob Brittain

Sir Martin Sorrell last month in Mi3 took on the revered principles of long term brand investment laid down by the British advertising effectiveness supremos Peter Field and Les Binet, saying that because of the digital economy "it may be that life has become shorter may be we have to be more reactive or more activation focused than long-term focused." But a new landmark Australian report from the Advertising Council with Peter Field and Rob Brittain, who have teamed with media science researcher Karen Nelson-Field, is pushing back squarely on Sorrell's digital curveball.

    What you need to know

    • S4 Capital's Sir Martin Sorrell told Mi3 in a podcast last month "it may be life has become short term. It may be attention spans have diminished" and that marketing and advertising "may have to be more reactive, more activation focused than long-term focused".
    • But the Advertising Council of Australia has launched a landmark report, To ESOV and Beyond, arguing for an uncontestable link between a brand's consumer mental availability, the extra share of voice that brand has in advertising versus rivals and differing advertising attention performance across media channels to deliver business results.
    • Co-authored by Rob Brittain, Peter Field and Karen Nelson-Field, the full report will be released later this week, which confirms Prof Byron Sharp and Jenni Romaniuk's work on mental availability and now adds to their benchmark research to help better understand where and how to invest marketing budgets for business impact. 
    • Brands with high mental availability are more likely to achieve stronger business metrics including sales, market share, profit growth and customer acquisition and retention.
    • Sorrell says upper funnel versus lower funnel marketing is up for review: "I would acknowledge the debate," he says. "I'm not sure what the conclusion is. I would say we have to debate it. But life has changed…What we have to acknowledge is that with the rise of digital, that there may be a shift in timeframes.”  

    Going Mental

    Brands which secure a high level of consumer or customer mental availability are more likely to achieve stronger business metrics, including sales, customer acquisition and profit growth, according to a new report which will be released this Thursday by the Advertising Council after a webinar briefing.

    The Ad Council of Australia’s report To ESOV and Beyond reveals the crucial role that mental availability plays in a brand’s likelihood to be bought or used more often and how this impacts excess share of voice (ESOV) and key business metrics. 

    The study has been co-authored by Rob Brittain and Peter Field, two of the leading authorities on advertising effectivenessand media science and advertising attention economy expert, Professor Karen Nelson-Field. The tie-up with Nelson-Field, who is renowned for her 'Not All Reach Is Equal' research and work around the advertising attention economy and media channels, comes as marketers look to charge their brands out of the world's biggest downturn and drive growth and sales.

    Australia's Advertising Council, like its UK peer industry body the IPA, has a database of hundreds of advertising effectiveness case studies which has been used to analyse and underpin a series of findings starting with mental availability and the importance of priming a consumer to disproportionately favour one brand over another in a buying occasion. Mental availability, according to the report, which Mi3 had early access to, has a direct impact on another surging marketing theme of global interest and its direct impact on business results: ESOV, or extra share of advertising voice. Essentially, it means those brands which have a higher share of advertising versus their marketshare and competitors achieve higher growth.     


    More Mental

    But there's a twist coming later this week when the Ad Council launches its new study: mental availability, ESOV and advertising attention metrics are combined into a new marketing science pot, still underpinned by the work first published in 2004 by Professor Byron Sharp and Jenni Romaniuk from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science on mental availability.

    "To our knowledge, this is the first time that broader analysis of ESOV has been published and the results are significant," said co-author Rob Brittain.

    The study aims to shift the way marketers allocate advertising spend by demonstrating the critical role mental availability plays in business metrics, as well as its impact on ESOV.

    It is the first time ESOV has been examined with mental availability, which the study defines as "a measure of the breadth and depth of perceptions of a brand". It's not the same as top-of-mind brand awareness. With brands competing for memory, advertising plays a critical role in growing mental availability. 

    Low mental availability, per the study, is typically when a person is aware of a brand but knows nothing about it. Conversely, high mental availability is hit when a person has both high awareness and knowledge of a brand. The result is an increased likelihood of that brand coming to mind more often during buying occasions 

    "Having higher mental availability means the brand is more likely to beat the others to the surface," said Brittain. 

    Examining campaigns in ACA’s effectiveness database, the report found advertising that created a positive effect on mental availability had a stronger impact on long term market share growth, strengthening pricing, customer retention, short term sales, new customer acquisition and brand profit growth.

    “When a situation arises where the brand is relevant, the likelihood of it coming to mind is determined by how strongly it competes with everything else that may also fit the role. Having higher mental availability means the brand is more likely to beat the others to the surface," added Brittain

    “We see this clearly in ACA’s Effectiveness Database. Among campaigns that have a significant (positive) effect on mental availability, the impacts on key business metrics are stronger. The effect is broad – everything performs better because the brand is competing more effectively in memory. It wins more often.”

    The full report will be released 1 July in a live webinar hosted by ACA in partnership with ThinkTV from 5pm. It can then be downloaded here


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