Research 'proves' PR more effective than ads

Mark Westaby, the founder of media evaluation firm Metrica, has discovered a novel method for tackling an issue with which the PR industry has always struggled: proving why media coverage can be more effective than advertising.

The answer, he claims, lies in the ‘significant difference’ in the ‘emotional intensity’ generated by editorial over advertising. He believes the research ‘has major implications beyond the PR industry’.

‘The critical importance of emotions has been known to advertisers for some time but has never been applied to media coverage,’ he said. He added: ‘While reading, watching or listening to media coverage and adverts, the brain records memories and emotional responses known as “somatic markers”, which attach to brands, positively or negatively.’

In short, media coverage ‘allows for much stronger emotional markers to be made’ than advertising.

Westaby said: ‘The most effective press materials are not necessarily the ones that include key messages but those that deliver emotional content, regardless of whether they are for washing powder or mainframe computers.’ He added: ‘For PR there should be more pre-testing, which has never been given the importance it has achieved in advertising.’

His research was published by World Advertising Research Center (WARC) in May. Neurobiologist Antonio Damasio identified somatic markers and the role they play in decision-making in the 1990s.

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