COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A new analysis of data from 91 studies examining advertising effectiveness suggests that ads may affect consumers' purchases of some household products for as long as six to nine months.

These findings bolster the claim that advertising not only increases short-term sales but can help build the long-term brand image of a product, said Robert Leone, author of the study and the Berry Chair in Marketing at Ohio State University's Max M. Fisher College of Business.

"Some observers have argued that advertising often isn't very effective, that it may have an immediate effect on sales but no carryover impact on consumers," Leone said. "But this research shows that the effectiveness of ads doesn't fade away quickly."

The findings of the study will be published in August in the journal Marketing Science.

Many manufacturers and retailers may be surprised by the enduring effectiveness of advertising found in this study, Leone said. The trend for makers of many food and household products is to spend less of their marketing budgets on advertising and more on promotional spending, such as coupon offers and pricing deals to retailers.

"This study signals once again the long-term value of advertising," Leone said. "Advertising may offer more value over the long run than special price promotions."

The long-term effectiveness of advertising has been debated because studies of the issue have reached widely varying conclusions. Various research projects have shown that ads affect consumer purchases for anywhere from a few weeks to several years, Leone said.

Many of the discrepancies between studies are the result of differing ways ad spending data is aggregated, or combined, by researchers, according to Leone. Generally, researchers have looked at ad spending for a product during a particular period of time and then examined how that spending affected sales of the product afterwards.

But study results are tied closely to the time period the researchers choose. Studies that examine a month of advertising for a product may find that one month of ads affect consumers' purchases for several months. But a researcher who examines a year of advertising for a product may find that the advertising effectiveness lasts a year or more.

"As you increase the time period of advertising you examine, you artificially increase how long the ads will be effective," he said.

Leone said he believes studies of ad effectiveness should be tied to the natural purchase cycle of a product, which he defines as the time period between purchases. For example, if consumers generally buy soft drinks once a week, a study of ad effectiveness for a soft-drink brand should look at one week of ads for the product.

In his analysis, Leone examined data from 91 studies of ad effectiveness for a wide range of products. Many of the products were consumables that people buy relatively frequently such as food items, household cleansers, soap, gasoline, and cigarettes. The original researchers in these studies looked at advertising data that varied from a week to a year in length. Leone adjusted the data from each study so that so he could examine the effect of one month of ads for the products. One month was selected as the best average purchase cycle for the variety of products used in the studies.

He found that when using one month as the purchase cycle for a product, ads for that brand affected sales for about six to nine months afterwards.

"If you're going to study advertising effectiveness, you really need to understand the purchase cycle of the product you're studying," Leone said. "The purchase cycle for soft drinks isn't the same as that of major appliances, for example, and studies need to take that into account."

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Contact: Robert Leone, (614) 292-1155

Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457