Finding NewInsights theOld-School Way

Elton seeks message and media that click for brands

How do you reach people who say advertising doesn’t sway them? Tim Elton of Mindshare says you start with better research into what really makes them tick.

“Consumers will tell you that they’re not influenced by advertising,” says Elton, executive director of business planning for Mindshare North America. “That’s been something that people who work in research and insights have had to deal with for many years. Of course they are, but they don’t like to admit it.”

Elton defines communications planning as “the selection of, prioritization of and coordination of channels and messages to deliver a client’s objectives based on an understanding of business, brands and consumers.”

And at Mindshare, that communications planning is frequently done before any creative is developed. “What can’t happen is we can’t start developing creative content and creative assets without a real clear understanding of where it’s going to end up running,” Elton says.

Consumer insights about what Mindshare calls “the path to purchase” can be gleaned by getting up close and personal with real consumers, as well as by tracking their behavior digitally. “We actually go and talk to consumers in their homes and do one-on-one discussions about how they choose a category, how they go about choosing a brand, when they make the purchase decision, [and whether] they make the decision at home or in the store,” he says.

The agency also does “shopping visits,” spending time in stores with consumers, as well as receptivity studies to understand exactly when they make that decision about a brand or a purchase. In-store marketing turns out to be a surprisingly powerful tool, according to Elton.

“We go into a lot of detail, and that’s really the key to it, having those kinds of meaningful insights,” he says. “The insights give you that inspiration for ideas going forward.”

Mindshare also follows the trail consumers leave in the digital space to measure the effectiveness of advertising, including TV commercials. “If it’s a spot that engages an audience, then we’re going to see, in the social media space, commentary around that advertising, and that message, and that brand,” he says. For example, there will also be an increase in searches for the brand and searches for the commercial on YouTube. The skill comes in looking at both what the consumer says and what he does so media planners can create strategy based around it that rings true, Elton points out.

Elton says media vendors also have information that can be valuable: “They know their readers or viewers or consumers as well as anybody. One good thing that they could do would be, in addition to saying how much time one of their viewers or readers spends with their magazine, go a bit further and talk about an understanding of how their media product influences that consumer in terms of purchase.”

Elton, who grew up just outside London in Winchester, says he’s always been intrigued by what makes people tick. He got interested in advertising in college—he had a girlfriend in the field. “The way she talked about it, it sounded good, and I thought I should give it a go.”

He came to the U.S. just over three years ago. He says he’s enjoying living in New York, and making an effort to learn about and enjoy American sports. “I love the NFL, and I’m starting to get my head around baseball,” he says. “I’d be lying if I said I understand all the rules. I’m sure it’s worse for you guys to try to follow cricket.”

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