Customer Insights — Your Attention Please

I’m not pleased to admit it, but early in my advertising career, 27 years ago to date myself, I was involved in the production of a television commercial that Burked a “4.”

For all of you who have entered the workforce since Burke Tests were popular ways to test a commercial’s effectiveness and ability to cut through clutter, a “4” is the same as “dead air.”

The commercial was produced after going through a lengthy creative development, concept exploratory and client approval process. The concept showed a happy family around a table enjoying a meal of fried chicken made with a particular cooking oil that was healthier than other cooking oils. We paid the talent fees and royalties necessary to have Mel Torme sing “Young at Heart” which reinforced the health message. The production values of the commercial were beautiful and shot by a top-flight director. We thought we had a very effective commercial with warm emotional family appeal that would help sell more of our client’s product.

Unfortunately, we never ran the concept or the execution by the consumer in either a focus group or one-on-ones before we spent money to produce the commercial or air it for a Burke Test. We attributed the poor performance on consumers’ lack of interest in the health message.

This is an example of where consumer insights could have saved the client tens of thousands of dollars and saved the agency a lot of credibility but no one thought it was necessary to share the concept with the target audience and get their feedback. In hindsight, an expensive mistake.

Granted a great presentation of a storyboard or animatic to a focus group or one-on-one may not have told us we had a commercial that wouldn’t cut through the clutter. Afterall you have the respondents’ undivided attention and their potential desire to make the moderator feel good. However, it would have been worth a few thousand dollars to find out if a health message at least reasonated.

Key learning experience: if you have the opportunity to get consumer insights in advance of spending more money, do so. It could end up saving you a lot more than you spend in the long run.

Have you ever produced an ineffective ad? Was research used upfront?


About Insights From Analytics

Integrated marketing professional who generates insights from analytics to increase revenue. Daily blog now resides at
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