Examiners report BBA0165 May 2011
Advertising and Promotion in Brand Marketing
Some 30 candidates took the examination this year. The overall standard of papers was very
pleasing indeed. There were no fails. The standard of English language was excellent, and many
papers offered well-constructed and original points. In many papers there was a good level of
engagement with the course material.
There was one weakness which was evident in many papers- examination technique. Some
candidates failed to obtain the higher marks of which they were capable because the examination
responses did not respond to the precise question that was asked. For example, question 1 was very
popular but some candidates took the opportunity to rehearse the virtues of digital media for brand
clients without explaining why this was important for the survival of advertising agencies. The
implicit assumption behind the question was that digital media might pose a challenge to ad
agencies business model since their traditional expertise lies in above the live media. As another
example, question 4 was also popular but some papers rehearsed issues of ethics in advertising and
did not pick up that the question in fact asked about the ethics of product placement. Where
responses took such an approach there were generally relevant issues which applied and they were
given credit for this, but the candidates who achieved the best marks were able to focus on the
exact question that was asked in a clearly signposted and structured response. Some of the weakest
responses offered essays which were generally though indirectly relevant and lacked a real
engagement with the question that was asked. Candidates can maximise their marks by striking a
balance between offering contextual information in addition to the specific response to the
question, and using the contextual information to distract from the fact that the precise question
has not been answered.
The examination paper:
1. Advertising agencies have to understand digital media if they are to survive.
Discuss this statement.
Indicative answer: Answers should discuss the ways in which digital media challenge
traditional ad agency working practices. Advertising on social networking sites, internet ads
on video sharing sites and mobile advertising are all growing rapidly, but these are
traditionally seen as peripheral to the business of spot advertising on TV or major print
campaigns. In addition, digital media demand skills which tend to be specialised and owned
by younger people. Ad agencies often sub contract digital campaigns, even though they may
boat an in-house digital group. The other major challenge besides simply finding the
relevant skills is to integrate digital media into campaigns in strategically coherent ways. The
implication of the question is that digital media might make traditional advertising redundant
in the future- good answers will engage with this speculative question.
As noted above, this was a popular question and many responses were well-informed on the
virtues of digital media but fewer really engaged with the issues of why ad agencies need to
understand digital media in order to survive. The best responses also went into the difficulty
agencies face in integrating digital planning into their advertising development process.
2. Describe the process of creative advertising development. Which are the key points of conflict
or problems in the process?
Answers can rehearse the process as it is listed in the text book, and they can touch in the content of
creative briefs and/or strategy briefs. Good answers should focus on potential areas of difficulty and
conflict e.g. the problem of establishing an advertising strategy which will be meaningful and
compelling to the relevant audience; the problem of correctly defining the audience: the difficulty of
achieving a creative execution which fulfils the campaign objectives; etc.
Many responses offered a full and detailed description of each role of the ad agency account team,
before touching on the explicitly on the creative advertising development process as described in
the course material. Nonetheless, most responses did eventually get to the key problems/issues
3. What are the key challenges in communicating brand values across national borders?
This question can be answered in a practical way, referring to the management problems of
standardised versus localised creative executions, or in a more theoretical way, looking at
reader response, interpretation of meaning and cultural framing etc.
This was another very popular question which elicited a good standard of response.
4. Do ethical theories help us in deciding whether or not product placement is ethically appropriate in childrens TV programming?
Some answers will discuss product placement, with perhaps a loose reference to childrens
TV: better answers will elaborate on ethical theories of consequentialism, virtue ethics and
deontology: and the best answers integrate both. They might also refer to the recent the
new rules on product placement in UK TV. Discussions could a number of different lines of
argument. For example, virtue ethics would hold that marketing people have a duty of care
towards children whose judgement is not yet fully formed; consequentialism might suggest
that placements could exert an influence on childrens future behaviour: deontological
perspectives might hold that it is simply wrong to treat children as objects for commercial
This question was also very popular but relatively few candidates were able to successfully
the ethical theories of deontology and consequentialism to the problem of product placement.
A number of candidates did not read the product placement part and took the question to be
asking about advertising. Most responses successfully rehearsed some ethical issues in
advertising to children, but relatively few understood and responded to the full import of the
question. The best responses were novel and interesting.
5 Which is more important in influencing the effectiveness of an advertising campaign:
creativity, or media strategy?
Good responses will pick apart and discuss effectiveness, creativity and media strategy,
explaining the role each can play in a campaign. Effectiveness needs to be qualified,
depending on the campaign objectives; creativity must have a strategic purpose, and
media strategy must be cost effective and accurately targeted. There might be discussion
on creativity (perhaps cast in terms of hard sell versus soft sell advertising)
This question was answered well by the candidates who attempted it. Creativity was
identified by most as the element of advertising which generates attention and gets an
emotional response from consumers, while media strategy was identified as the element
which ensures coherence between the channels and targeted consumer segment.
6 Critically evaluate the idea of integrated marketing communications.
Answers can explain the idea of integrating campaigns across different media platforms
(IMC), they might argue that it is no longer a novelty but a necessary starting point for
campaign planning. Some might suggest that it is an idea much parlayed by academics but
treated with cynicism by practitioners. They might also mention that it is an ideal which
faces practical constraints.
Most candidates who attempted this question offered a plausible description of IMC. Critical
evaluation of the concept was more of a challenge for some candidates, though some
correctly identified the practical difficulty agencies have in implementing IMC. Some
candidates also identified the contradictions inherent in IMC, given that marketing
communications cannot hope to fully control reader-response regardless of how many media
channels are used.
7 Compare cognitive with cultural theories of advertising. Which are more useful to advertising practitioners?
This refers to categorisations of advertising theory in the text book. Cognitive theories focus
on individual mental reactions to advertising exposures, recall, affect etc. Cultural theories
(e.g. reader response, advertising as ideology) refer to the social influence of advertising.
Advertising pre-testing based on cognitive experimental approaches tends to dominate
practice in some countries, while creative staff tend to favour anthropological,
ethnographic and aesthetics as socio-cultural ways of understanding advertising effects.
This question was less popular, and more difficult than some others. The best responses
were excellent and correctly identified linear, information-processing theories as cognitive
explanations of consumer behaviour, while identifying cultural and socio-cultural
explanations as complimentary. Responses which simply rehearsed the various theories
without addressing the cognitive Vs cultural question gained credit but did not achieve marks
as high as they might have done had they engaged more fully with the question.
8 Can advertising and promotional communication be blamed for rising rates of liver disease due to excessive drinking in the UK?
This question touches on two things; how advertising works, and advertising ethics. Weaker
responses might bang on about advertising ethics and alcohol but without necessarily
invoking ethical theory. Better responses might refer to both ethical theory and theories of
This was not a hugely popular question and responses varied in quality. Some offered
relatively subjective opinions on the issue, though informed by knowledge of the UK
situation as regards alcohol consumption. A few took the opportunity to explore the question
in the wider context of how or why advertising influences human behaviour.