Advertising Research

Dr Brian Monger

An important function of marketing and advertising research is to gather information needed for the development of the advertising campaign. Prior to campaign development the market is analysed to decide what kinds of things need to be known about the target market for the product.

 Research Overview

Perhaps little need for advertising existed before the, Industrial Revolution* because sellers met face to face with buyers and, therefore, knew their customers intimately. Similarly, there was no real need for research into the market. Only after buyers and sellers – became separated geographically was there a desire and need for market information. As business developed, the gap continued to widen, with even more intermediaries separating sellers and buyers. The feedback of information provided by market research became a valuable tool which enables sellers to satisfy the needs and wants of consumers.

* Although it did exist way back into (at least) Roman times

The gathering of such information, now known as market research, went through a evolutionary process responsive to the needs of its own marketplace. When the Census of Population of the United States was commenced in 1790, it became the first source of information about the scattered American market. In 1890 a system of punched cards was developed which permitted more speedy tabulation of census data; more information could then be gathered by field interviewers. In the 1925 1940 period the emphasis in market analysis shifted to the individual customer, and rather sophisticated sampling techniques were developed to facilitate the data-gathering process. In the 1940s another shift in emphasis occurred with the firm’s impact on markets receiving attention in addition to an understanding of the composition and operation of specific markets. The advent and growing availability of large-scale digital computers in the 1960s made the once burdensome manipulation of market data vastly quicker and more economical.’


Market Research and Advertising Research

Marketing research can be defined as “the systematic gathering, recording, and analysing of data about problems relating to the marketing of goods and services.”  Such research is carried on “to guide managers in their analysis, planning, implementation, and control of programs to satisfy customer and organisational goals.”


Most sizeable business firms maintain a marketing research department as an integral part of the company’s marketing organisation. The research department assists the advertising manager in the gathering of market data and helps in sifting through and classifying the material, which is then fed to the advertising agency to use when discharging its primary functions of creating and placing advertising.


Information already existing within the company, internal data such as sales figures and customer lists, is tapped first. However, available data in most situations are insufficient for accurate decision making; therefore, additional research is undertaken. External data can be added to the store of information necessary for thorough planning. Secondary data, the results of other researchers’ efforts, should be brought together, assessed, and added to the company’s inventory of marketing data.

If additional data are still needed, a program of original research is instigated. The overriding research constraints of time and money are felt most heavily at this point. The search for primary data can be conducted by the firm’s own marketing research department, by the advertising agency’s research people, or by special-service groups established to perform such tasks.


Although marketing research plays a significant part in product formulation, packaging, new-product introductions, and advertising copy, we shall be specifically concerned here with its influence on advertising copy. Marketing research when directed at the advertising copy decision is usually called advertising research. It should thus be clear that advertising research is actually a sub system of the marketing research process. Furthermore, information gathered through marketing research is used by the advertiser and the advertising agency when engaged in campaign planning. Another area important to the advertising process, media research, is discussed briefly.


For one reason, more money is spent for this part of the market research field than for any other area. Since advertising is the “primary interface between business and the public…. it is no wonder that business is so concerned with doing sensible advertising research.  Advertising research is the final test of all the efforts to produce and market the product that has gone before.


It is an absolute necessity to be thinking of the advertising, the advertisability, and the research on the advertising as the final product of all that is done in researching the product or service all along the way. The earlier that advertising (and advertising research) is integrated into the process of product and research planning, is regarded seriously, and is looked at in many early rough forms, the better the process will go. If it isn’t, it may not go at all.


Distinctions have been drawn between market research and advertising research. The first type of information, it is said, is concerned with the description and measurement of a particular market, whereas advertising research evaluates the impact of advertising messages on the market. By this distinction, a study of the days in the week when consumers purchase their groceries would be market research. A study of their readership of grocery advertisements in newspapers would be advertising research.


Rather than attempt to place market research and advertising research in two separate pigeonholes, a more practical approach for either the creation or the management of advertising is to think in terms of advertising and market research. Both types of information are needed, and the same basic techniques are used to collect and interpret both types of information. Advertising research, as for all forms of research, is based upon certain fundamental principles which are explained in the following survey.


Research Fundamentals

Through research an investigator attempts to arrive at precise answers to precise questions. “Precise” is a relative term, and in areas involving human behaviour the variables are more difficult to identify and to quantify than in the case of the physical and biological sciences. Research is used to reduce the area of uncertainty in which judgment and experience must operate to the point where one of several alternatives can be chosen with confidence. Marketing involves selling to people, an undertaking not nearly so predictable as other business activities such as production lines or accounts. On the basis of market research, decisions can be made, not with certainty, out with probability. Like many branches of science, market research attempts to quantify the unknown so that educated guesses can be made.


Marketing research employs several steps based on the scientific method. First, facts are assembled; second, some kind of order is imposed on the facts; third, a hypothesis is generated; and fourth, a theory results. The essence of this research approach is lodged in the principle of the hypothesis-a tentative theory or supposition adopted to guide the researcher-plus the employment of procedures that permit either proving or disproving the hypothesis. Thus, the validity and reliability of any research depend primarily on two criteria. First is the reliability of the researcher-whether his or her viewpoint is objective, rational, and free from bias. Second is the extent to which basic scientific procedures, such as the historical, experimental, or analytical methods and the generally accepted techniques developed in such relevant fields as statistics, psychology, and sociology, are employed.


Five Basic Steps in Research Procedure

Five steps can be used to analyse a market research problem. Different authorities classify and describe the basic procedure of marketing and advertising research in different ways, but most will agree that a full-scale investigation includes these steps:

(1) defining the problem;

(2) collecting secondary, or available, data;

(3) collecting primary, or original, data;

(4) compiling and collating data; and

(5) interpreting the findings.


Marketing research specialists, with an eye perhaps to the practical application of research projects, often include two other steps:


(6) presenting the results and

(7) applying the conclusions, or follow-up.


Important as these operations are, they seem to be less concerned with  actual research procedure than with ways to increase the utility of a research project. Effective presentation of the results of an investigation is a problem in communications techniques rather than research procedure, and applying the conclusions drawn from research involves the management decision which the project itself was planned to aid.


Sampling Methods

The two most commonly used methods of sampling in marketing and advertising research are (1) probability sampling and (2) quota, or judgment, sampling.


Probability Sampling

In the probability method, each unit of the universe has a known or equal chance of being selected, and the chance of any unit’s being selected is unrelated to the subject or purpose of the study. Simple random sampling is one form of probabil­ity sampling. The most important characteristic of the probability method is that the variance between the characteristics of the sample and the true characteristics of the universe can be accurately estimated mathematically. Stratified sampling is often done when the probability sampling method is being employed. The total universe is first divided into two or more parts, or strata, and then a sample is drawn from each of the strata.   It is also known as Random Sampling


Quota Sampling

 Quota sampling, which is sometimes called judgment sampling, is a method of sampling in which interviewers look for specific numbers of respondents with known characteristics. For in­stance, a marketer seeking to sell a new razor to  men may be able to learn all that needs to be known from interviewing 3000 men with heavy beards. Considerable freedom is left to interviewers in the selection of respondents to fit these specifications. Despite the restrictions on the choice of respondents, interviewers are expected to select a random sample within the universe of respondents that fits the criteria established for the sample. In reality, however, interviewers tend to select those who are easiest to inter-view-and each member of the universe does not have an equal chance of being selected. This is the main difference between quota sampling and probability sampling.


Despite this significant weakness, the quota method continues to be popular in marketing and advertising research as a means of maximising research dollars. It is likely to be both faster and less expensive than probability sampling. Also, in recent years, considerable attention has been given to ways of reducing the interviewer or respondent selection bias. Nor is it always practical to apply probability selection techniques to the problem under study, If considerable cooperation is required from individual respondents to complete interviews, probability sampling -may be difficult if not impossible. Where speed and economy are more important than precise results, quota sampling continues to he used with satisfactory results.


To sum up, haphazard or unsystematic sampling methods are to be avoided in any research project. In situations where the use of probability sampling techniques is impractical or where speed and economy are greater considerations than precision, quota sampling is the answer. But if a precise answer is required, along with an estimate of the extent of probable error, a probability sample is mandatory.


Dr Brian Monger is Executive Director of MAANZ International and an internationally known consultant with over 45 years of experience assisting both large and small companies with their projects.  He is a specialist in negotiation and behaviour He is also a highly effective and experienced trainer and educator

He is very well known and highly regarded as a Linked In groups manager

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