ADPLAN Framework

Advertisements can be, and often are, evaluated on a variety of different metrics, such as creativity and popularity. The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University has developed a framework known as ADPLAN that assesses advertising from a strategic perspective.

Our overall goal is to use our strategic assessment to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of an ad with respect to their ability to build the brand. Our assessments of advertisements reflect six criteria that have been shown through research to be important to achieve these six goals:

The ADPLAN Framework Flash Player upgrade required
The ADPLAN Framework

Net equity

Kellogg students use the ADPLAN criteria to evaluate ads from a strategic perspective during the Kellogg School's annual Super Bowl Advertising Review. Each factor is taken into consideration when evaluating an advertising campaign.

Following is additional information on each of the six dimensions of ADPLAN:

Attention - Brands can benefit from consumers paying attention to ad information. Attention, or lack thereof, can often aid or hinder recall not only of the advertisement but of the brand and its position. Given the often cluttered and fierce environment that advertisements compete in, attention requires the aid of a captive audience, repeated exposures, a clever execution, or a combination of these or other factors.

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EXAMPLE: Apple's "1984" Super Bowl advertisement has often been lauded for catching consumer attention as a result of its unique execution and high production values.

Distinction - Even if an advertisement is attention-grabbing, it is important that a brand's advertisement is distinct from its competitors. If an ad does not separate itself from the competition, the message might be lost in the mass of advertising or even lead to confusion over the brand.

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EXAMPLES: TAG body spray entered the market using a very similar style to AXE. This approach risked reminding consumers of the leading brand, rather than solely advertising TAG.

A truly distinct ad makes it nearly impossible for consumers to mistake the brand being advertised. Another first-rate example of strong distinction is Budweiser's campaign revolving around frogs uttering the brand name, "Bud-weis-er." This created an ad execution that could not be easily mistaken or emulated by competitors.

Positioning - Advertising executions can be evaluated with respect to whether they clearly convey the frame of reference (the category the brand desires to compete in or the ultimate goal the brand addresses) and the point of difference (how the brand is superior to competitors on some attribute). Strong positioning communicates to the consumer how to think of the brand and why it should be used over others in the category.

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EXAMPLE: 7UP's classic "uncola" campaign illustrates the importance of positioning. By associating 7UP with meals, snacks and friends, the ad elevated the brand's position into the soda category from a brand that was typically thought of as a mixer. The campaign continued this approach by differentiating 7UP from its competitors by focusing on the brand being fresh tasting and thirst quenching.

Linkage - Advertising that draws attention, is distinct from competitors and has solid positioning can sputter if consumers cannot link the advertisement to the brand or the benefits it offers. It is possible that consumers might remember part of an advertisement but forget another part. If the forgotten piece of information is the brand itself, or the positioning of the brand, this could reduce the potential effectiveness of the advertisement. Some creative efforts to attract attention or create distinctiveness might come at the cost of linkage.

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EXAMPLE: Advertisers might attempt to garner attention by telling an entertaining story and revealing the brand only at the end of the advertising. Ameriquest employed this strategy during the 2006 Super Bowl by showing situations that could be misinterpreted and ending by telling consumers not to judge too quickly. This execution risked poor linkage of the brand to the advertisement, with one ad critic even awarding the brand the unenviable award of, "The ad I liked the most, but whose brand I forgot the fastest." Hence, regardless of whether an advertisement grabs attention or is distinct, it is important to consider whether there is good linkage present.

Amplification - Consumers often "amplify," or think about the message content, after receiving it. That is, consumers have their own thoughts or idiosyncratic responses to advertisements. As a result, consumers' own cognitive responses play a critical role in determining whether the ad has a favorable or unfavorable effect on consumers' opinions and likeability of the brand.

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EXAMPLE: Grape-Nuts, trying to find a new way to advertise their brand in the 1980s, piloted several television ads in a series of test markets. They found that some of these ads led consumers to produce negative thoughts to the message.

Net Equity - Brands develop a history and equity over time. As it often takes years, even decades, to build equity, it is important to consider how a particular ad or advertising campaign relates to and builds upon the net equity of a brand. Brand equity can be leveraged to strengthen position in an ad, and advertising can be used to reinforce the total or net equity of the brand. Walking away from equity might have adverse effects for a brand.

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EXAMPLES: BMW is often associated with being the ultimate driving machine, and Budweiser is often associated with being the king of beers. This equity has important effects on consumers' reactions and behavior (e.g., their reactions to blind taste tests).

Tic Tac initially positioned their mints as powerful breath fresheners. However, in the 1990s, the brand began to portray itself as low calorie mint. Because people likely do not associate low calories with a powerful breath mint, this might have aided Altoids which positioned itself squarely on power and was able to steal share from Tic Tac. Hence, it is important to consider whether an execution maintains, builds or damages the equity of the brand.

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