Empirical Marketing

What’s the cost of boring?


$228 billion. That’s how expensive boring is.

Last time we explored the question, “Is creative advertising worth the investment?” This week we’ll explore why.

Marketing effectiveness greats Peter Field and Adam Morgan, along with creative measurement firm System1, recently studied 57,000 TV ads that had run in the US since 2017.

They were looking for ads that evoked emotion, because emotion is the most important driver of sales, profit and market share growth. And this is any emotion — joy, laughter, excitement, happiness, etc.

The researchers grouped all 57,000 ads into four categories:

6 2 Creative Effectiveness Dull o meter

Extremely dull – Ads with a 61% neutrality score or higher, meaning the ad had no impact on at least 61% of the audience.

Very dull – Ads with a 51% neutrality score

Moderately dull – Ads with a 43% neutrality score

Non-dull — Ads with a 33% neutrality score or lower were considered effective, meaning the ad had an emotional impact on 67% or more of people

Overall, the team found that 47% of all the ads they reviewed were considered very dull and had no emotional impact on the audience whatsoever. It’s worse for B2B brands where around 78% of ads have no emotional impact.

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According to Field, Morgan and System1, “it would require $228bn in extra spending to generate the market share growth delivered by the most impactful ads.”

Impactful ads also do more work to grow market share:

Boring ads ultimately mean millions of dollars in wasted ad spend, lost leads and sales.

So, let’s flip this. What makes advertising empirically effective? How do we measure good? We’ll see you next week.


  1. Dull ads cost billions in wasted spend for US brands” – WARC

  2. Adam Morgan on the cost of dull advertising” – On Strategy Showcase podcast

  3. "Emotion: The most rational thing a brand can use" - IPA

  4. "The art of proof: How creative quality drives profit" - KANTAR

  5. "Marketing Truths #3: Creativity supercharges effectiveness across categories and industries - even the dull ones" – WARC