What do we know about how Advertising works?

Dr. Timothy Joyce
British Market Research Bureau Limited


The question “how does advertising work?” seems to be raised more and more often in connection with research into advertising. There is increasing awareness that a number of advertising research methods in common use imply very different assumptions about the way advertising works. Rarely-if ever-is evidence presented that the assumptions made are correct. Also, discussions of difficulties of communication which are experienced between creative and research people often seem to point to different assumptions about the functions of advertising made by the two sides concerned, Let us first consider what the problem is and why it is a problem. To start with, what do we mean by “advertising” and what do we mean when we say that it “works”? In the interests of simplicity, it seems legitimate to limit consideration to: