Brand Awareness, which is the most basic form of long-term brand memory, is primarily determined by two marketing variables. The first is repetition, which is a function of media weight. The second is the creative quality of the advertising.

Like movie making, advertising is a collaborative art form. In general there are three creative roles that must be performed well in order to make an effective commercial: the brand strategist, the agency creative director and the film director.

Not so long ago we performed a simple analysis of the test results for a large sample of Unilever commercials to estimate how much each of these three creative roles contributes to the power of advertising in building in market awareness.

First, the client must come up with an important idea to communicate. This is the strategy. In the commercial pretests, the power of the strategy was estimated by looking at the rating, “The message is important to me.”

Second, the ad agency must come up with a clever idea for turning strategy into advertising. We estimated this by looking at ratings for, “The ad is clever and entertaining.”

Finally, the client and the agency must hire a director to actually shoot the commercial.  Since Picture Sorts® variables are all about the filmmaker’s art—what Unilever called “the Spielberg variables”—we used parameters from the map of short-term visual memory to estimate how well the filmmaker did his job of telling the creative story in pictures.

When we performed a mathematical regression with these three variables to model the in market awareness scores of 71 Unilever commercials, we found that these three simple diagnostic measures explained three-fourths of the variance in awareness, after adjusting for differences in repetition due to media weight.

So, looking at our model, we see that having a good strategy explains nearly half, or 40%, of commercial awareness building effectiveness.  That is the single most important variable determining creative quality.

Second, taking account of the cleverness of the creative concept improved the fit of the model from 40% to 54%.

Finally, looking at the Spielberg variable improved the model even more. Adding in the visual to the verbal measures, the “goodness of fit” of the model went from 54% to 75%.

In short, strategy accounts for half of the power of television advertising to build awareness in market; and execution accounts for the other half.  And execution is determined in equal parts by having a clever creative concept and by good filmmaking.

Please contact Sonya Duran ( with any questions.