Ad Tracking research refers to the concept of evaluating the in-market performance of advertising and the greater definition of 'marketing communications' and any brand touchpoints. It currently most often refers to consumer survey-based research, although there is some emerging interest and efforts to evaluate in-market ad performance using social listening and other non-survey-based research.
Such ad tracking specifically implies the inclusion of questions and/or analysis about the advertising, plus marketing communications themselves. Such measures typically focus on ad recall or breakthrough, correct branding to the advertiser, and consumer feelings towards the creative content/stimuli ('ad diagnostics'). Such 'ad tracking' will also like include brand measures, and will work to relate the performance of the advertising/communication touchpoints on to the key brand measures. This helps to judge if the communication objectives are being realised by actually impacting the brand in the intended manner (or in some other manner). The difference between 'ad tracking' versus 'brand tracking' is usually the former includes advertising/touchpoint evaluation measures, whereas the latter lacks the advertising evaluation and focuses on the brand measures. Many studies have both ad and brand measures!
Ipsos Point Of View:
Advertising Tracking Research is important and necessary to understand the 'why' behind any passively observed shifts in brand business (in the absence of such specific tracking research). Without such ad tracking research, it is possible for clients to start advertising and observe shifts in brand business (such as sales) and/or shifts in brand measures from a simple 'brand tracker.' However, without specific in-market evaluation of the advertising/touchpoints themselves, it is difficult to understand in which ways the communications are working well, how they could have been even stronger, or perhaps are working less well. Without such insight, it is hard for clients to understand what to do differently or better going forward. Is the advertising capturing consumer attention (recall, recognition, and correct brand attribution), and having an impact on behaviour (i.e. sales) or brand desire (i.e equity or imagery)?
Sometimes we hear clients or their agencies ask "If we only air strong ads, after pre-testing, then why do we also need to evaluate the advertising in-market?" The answer has many elements:
(a) To verify that the pre-test is actually performing as expected in the real cluttered world, in the un-directed ways of consumers in their lives. Ads which test well in pre-testing might not perform well in market due to competitive activity.
(b) To assess how the advertising is impacting the brand objectives in reality.
(c) Because even good ads wear-out and this needs to be tracked to understand how ad replacement should be managed.
(d) To learn the competitive impact/response.
(e) To review and learn about the media 'lay-down' to guide media improvements/best-practice.
(f) To understand which (sub)targets are being most or least affected.
In short, Ipsos believes strongly in the need to measure in-market advertising performance in order to manage it effectively.
There are hundreds of relevant published books and articles on how advertising works, how consumers react to advertising, and how brands grow (as a function of marketing efforts).
- John Hallward's book (Gimme! The Human Nature of How Advertising Works, 2007) is a direct reflection of Ipsos' experience in ad tracking research.
- Other authors which are earning buzz these days include:
- How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp (2010) (associated with Ehrenberg-Bass)
- Influence; the Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini (2007) (an oldie, but goodie)
- How Customers Think by Gerald Zaltman (2003)
- What Sticks: Why Most Advertising Fails and How to Guarantee yours Succeeds by Briggs and Stuart (2013)
- The Long and the Short of It by Binet & Field (2013)
- The Anatomy of Humbug by Paul Feldwick (2015)
- Seducing the Subconscious by Robert Heath (2012)
- Brand Media Strategy by Antony Young (2010)
- The Advertised Mind by Erik Du Plessis (2009, Millward Brown)- not so buzz worthy, but from a key competitor
- The IPA/World Advertising Research Centre (WARC) is a solid source for papers, conference materials, and insights.
There is also the Ipsos Connect Knowledge Circle Discussion Board