Over the past 10 years or so, those of us in the advertising and marketing industry have seen a lot of books about the problems in our industry. We have seen a lot of books denouncing present advertising and marketing practices as outdated and wasteful. We have seen a lot of books that talk generally about what to expect in the future. We have seen a lot of books about how to get your advertising noticed. However, what we haven't seen is a book that systematically and scientifically delves into the advertising practices of marketers and agencies, calls out what is wrong and why, names names, and, most importantly, offers a prescription to fix it. That is exactly what Rex Briggs and Greg Stuart have done in "What Sticks: Why Most Advertising Fails and How to Guarantee Yours Succeeds."
The book is direct and straightforward, and Briggs and Stuart speak to advertisers and marketers in clear and plain language and don't hold anything back. They tell us that advertising is broken. They tell us why. They show us proof. And, most importantly, they tell us how to fix it. This is not a book of random anecdotes and quick fix prescriptions. It is a comprehensive, thorough, and systematic analysis of advertising. It is clear in its findings and conclusions. It does not waste words. Fluffy or fuzzy, this book is not.
The depth of Briggs and Stuart's background and experience is quite evident. It comes out in their arguments, their style, and in the sensibility of their advice. Briggs is a veteran advertising and marketing researcher, with a particular focus on cross-media advertising effectiveness. Stuart is the CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the trade organization for online ad sellers, and was a veteran marketer and ad agency executive for the better part of two decades before that. However, don't think that just because they both have backgrounds in interactive advertising, that they use this book to dump on traditional media channels. They don't. The book is much bigger than interactive advertising. It is about the entire business of advertising. It is about how it is practiced generally, with a particular focus on how little scientific methods are understood and followed in the process. Most importantly, it is all about debunking the notion that "following your gut" makes for better advertising.
This book is different from many of the books that we see on the subject. It is more like a textbook than a collection of war stories. It is all about facts and proof, not just allegations and bald arguments. It offers more than just observations and analysis; it offers a plan. Finally, it is more about making a case for a better advertising method than it is about just promoting the authors or their companies.
What will readers find in "What Sticks?" Readers will find a systematic analysis of the problems of advertising, one that looks beyond the symptoms of bad advertising to actually identify and dissect the causes. Readers will learn about Briggs and Stuart's proposal to fix advertising -- COP -- their self-styled "Communication Optimization Process." Readers will not find the typical bold, broad and unsupported statements of so many other books in the genre. Readers will find lots of real-life examples of what has worked and what hasn't worked in the past.
"What Sticks" is a book about better advertising. If you care about that, you should read it.
Dave Morgan is the chairman of TACODA Systems. .