Advertising Is an Art—and a Science

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William Bernbach, one of the giants of American advertising in the 1960s and 1970s (the period-piece TV show Mad Men often refers to him), famously said of his profession, “Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.”

That may still be true. But the case for advertising as a science is surely getting stronger. This month’s Spotlight on the Future of Advertising takes a look at the industry’s dramatic transformation and highlights some of the approaches and campaigns that have been most successful.

The biggest change, of course, is the explosion of data now available to advertisers as they try to connect with consumers across a multitude of platforms. The big question: How do managers make sense of all those metrics?

In “Advertising Analytics 2.0,” Wes Nichols, cofounder of MarketShare, shows how firms can craft strategies that use new mathematical modeling to generate more sales. Companies, he says, now can achieve a far more sophisticated understanding of how their messages touch consumers, and can change their strategies, if necessary, on the fly. Getting it right can mean lifting marketing performance by as much as 30%.

In an accompanying piece, Jeffrey Rayport, managing partner of digital strategy firm MarketspaceNext, explains what companies need to do to get their message heard in an era where interruption and repetition are no longer effective. And Sunil Gupta, of Harvard Business School, demonstrates how top marketers are mastering the smartphone—not with tiny ads, which no one seems to like or even notice, but with apps that provide customers with real value.

And be sure to look at our review of recent ad campaigns that truly stand out. Bernbach would no doubt be impressed. “[I]t would be easy to conclude that advertising has flipped to all science and no art,” writes HBR’s Julia Kirby. “But then along comes fresh creative to show us what really sells.”

Follow link to site: http://hbr.org/2013/03/advertising-is-an-art-and-a-science/ar/1

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