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    Assessing the Power of Ads

    It often seems to be a point of pride among consumers to insist they aren’t swayed by ads when deciding what to buy. As such, the findings of an AdweekMedia/Harris Poll fielded this month aren’t as dismissive of advertising as they might be.

    It often seems to be a point of pride among consumers to insist they aren't swayed by ads when deciding what to buy. As such, the findings of an AdweekMedia/Harris Poll fielded this month aren't as dismissive of advertising as they might be.

    Consumers were asked to say how influential ads they'd seen or heard had been when they made their most recent big purchase. Six percent said the ads were "very influential" and another 29 percent said they were "somewhat influential." Twenty-nine percent said the ads were "not that influential." Twenty-five percent said they were "not at all influential," with the rest saying the question didn't apply to them or declining to choose. All things considered, bold agency people could brandish these findings when dealing with clients who doubt the efficacy of advertising.

    You might think today's young adults, who grew up in a pop culture drenched in irony, would be less susceptible than their elders to the influence of advertising when they make major purchase decisions. Instead, the poll's 18-34-year-olds were the most likely to report that ads were at least somewhat influential in guiding their most recent big purchase, with 45 percent saying so -- vs. 37 percent of the 35-44-year-olds, 28 percent of the 45-54s and 29 percent of those 55-plus. This pattern of response will not please people who think advertisers pay too little attention to older consumers, as it suggests the elders would be more resistant in any case, while young adults are still comparatively impressionable.

    When advertising fails to shape consumers' actions, is it because the ads aren't interesting? Another part of the survey suggests otherwise. Respondents were asked, "Considering all types of advertising, how interesting do you find current advertising?" A majority said they find it either "very interesting" (8 percent) or "somewhat interesting" (47 percent). Just 13 percent said it's "not at all interesting." The poll's 18-34-year-olds were the most likely to find ads at least somewhat interesting (66 percent did so); the 55-and-olders were the least likely (46 percent).

    Comparing these responses to those in the chart, one gathers that a sizable minority of respondents find ads interesting but aren't necessarily influenced by them. This is a supposition agency people will not care to brandish on their next visit to a client.

    - Nielsen Business Media

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