Top Research Explores Social Media Effectiveness, Creativity

How does advertising perform in a social-media world? How can you build a cohesive social strategy? And what are the hidden influences that shape your organization's creativity?

By Ann Marie Kerwin

How does advertising perform in a social-media world? How can you build a cohesive social strategy? And what are the hidden influences that shape your organization's creativity?

These topics are explored in three winning research papers, recently released by Advertising Age. The papers were awarded honors from Advertising Age, the American Academy of Advertising and Temerlin Advertising Institute at Southern Methodist University in a competition to uncover the best academic thinking around marketing and advertising business problems.

Ad Age is committed to bringing the that thinking to its professional audience, and to encouraging productive interaction between the academic and business communities. So in 2012, Ad Age partnered with the Temerlin Advertising Institute at Southern Methodist University to sponsor a research-paper competition for the American Academy of Advertising, an organization of advertising scholars and professionals with an interest in ad education.

The winning research papers are the result of peer-reviewed judging by members of the AAA, Temerlin staff and Advertising Age and the academic authors and researchers behind them were honored at an awards ceremony at the AAA's annual meeting in April, recieving their prizes from Temerlin professor Hye Jin Yoon and Ad Age's Ann Marie Kerwin.

Winner: How Advertising Performs in a Social Media World

The top prize was awarded to Esther Thorson, associate dean at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism and director of research at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, and Jeri M. Smith, president of Communicus, a Tucson, Ariz.-based advertising research company. Their paper, "How Advertising Performs in a Social Media World,” uses original research to demonstrate how social media and traditional advertising work differently, and the best approach in using both most effectively.

Advertising and brand managers today are consumed with planning promotions, integrations and social-media marketing programs that are unclear in terms of effectiveness or persuasion. As advertisers add social media and new-media strategies to their arsenals, they must consider both costs and benefits, and how it relates to other forms of advertising. Using social-media research and data from the Communicus database, which includes more than 40 years of research on the effects of advertising, this report evaluates how to combine social media marketing and traditional advertising for optimal results. The report also explores the consumer’s mindset when approaching traditional vs. nontraditional advertising; how ads that use traditional and nontraditional communications differ in their ability to persuade consumers and best practices for marketers looking to integrate their marketing communications.

Honorable Mention: How to Integrate Social Media

Keith A. Quesenberry, lecturer at the Center for Leadership Education at Johns Hopkins University, and Michael K. Coolsen, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing in the John L. Grove College of Business at Shippensburg University, offer five practical methods for successfully listening to and engaging with consumers through research, crowdsourcing, branded content, customer evangelism and customer service in their paper, “How to Integrate Social Media Into Your Marketing Strategy.”

Today’s empowered consumers are generating and sharing their own brand content more than ever before. To succeed in their social media strategy, managers must let go of one-sided brand messages, and take an inclusive approach in their social media communications. The report showcases how integrating both company-generated and consumer-generated communications can create a cohesive social media marketing strategy for businesses.

Honorable Mention: The Creative Code

Mark Stuhlfaut, Ph.D., assistant professor in the College of Communication at the University of Kentucky, and Kasey Windels, Ph.D., assistant professor of advertising in the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University, explored the influences on creativity in “The Creative Code.” The paper and the research it's based on is the product of more than four years of investigation and five studies. Qualitative personal interviews were conducted with more than 100 creative directors, copywriters and art directors at 12 U.S. agencies, ranging from large international multi-office firms to regional, consumer, business-to-business (B2B) and multicultural specialists. National surveys captured opinions from 557 creatives at an additional 200 U.S. agencies of all sizes.

Creativity drives the advertising business. But on the way to producing eye-popping, jaw-dropping campaigns, agencies typically are unaware of a powerful hidden influence: the social forces within their organization that affect their perceptions and judgments about creative products.

The Creative Code refers to the values that people have inside an agency for what represents creative excellence. Understanding an agency’s Creative Code can lead to understanding how efficiently a creative group works together, what work gets approved, how consistent the quality of the work is, what new ideas get heard and how the group approaches risk taking. This resourceful guide to ad agency management includes practical implications for copywriters, art directors, creative directors and top management.

Advertising Age readers can purchase the reports here . If you are a subscriber to Ad Age, be sure you are logged in to to get offered a discounted price.