Audience & Ad Readership Studies

Are your messages resonating with your audiences? How many people read advertising? What’s the best channel to use for your messages to a target audience?

All these answers depend on how you define advertising.

In 2017, it was reported that Digital marketing experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day.[1] Today, that amount hasn’t changed that much, despite the increase in advertising spending.[2] Global advertising expenditures were about $520 billion in 2016, equivalent to the national economy of Argentina or Sweden; advertising spending in the United States totals about $600 per person annually.[3]

There is a concept called “Native advertising,” which was first used by Fred Wilson at the Online Media, Marketing, and Advertising Conference in 2011.[4] Today, it is also called sponsored content, which is messaging that is paid that appears in the style and format of the content near where the ad is placed. In other words, it “looks” like “content,” not “advertising.”

In The Truth about Native Advertising[5], I noted the following:

I was at a Google-sponsored event a couple of years ago. There was a panel discussion, comprised of a Northwestern Professor, three Google people and Guy Kawasaki (Yes, Guy Kawasaki himself). After dinner they opened the floor to questions, and I was first up. “My clients really want to know what is advertising in this digital world?” They discussed it for five minutes, but were unable to come to a conclusion. They were going to move on to the next question, but I wouldn’t let them.

“You don’t understand,” I interrupted. “My clients need to know this. We all need to know it. What IS advertising?”They discussed it for five more minutes or so and the Northwestern professor finally said, “Everything is advertising.” I smiled, sat down. It was the answer I already knew.

Because everything – your website, the ads you purchase, the tweets you send – is advertising whether you know it or not. The fact is, the minute you send a message, you’re trying to sell something.

Figure 1. The relationship of people’s reactions to messages, including advertising.
Figure 1. The relationship of people’s reactions
to messages, including advertising.

So, isn’t it better to know the kind of reaction to your message is likely or not? Shouldn’t you try to put the odds of readership in your favor BEFORE you shape a campaign?

Now What?

If we are receiving all these thousands of messages each day, logic tells us that we don’t (actually can’t) read all of them. But, we may REACT to some of them even though we don’t read them.

In our print advertising studies, there was a relationship that holds true in today’s digital world; that is, from any overall audience, a certain percentage will see the ad, a percentage of that group will read it, and still another percentage will do something (see Figure 1). This conclusion was based the study of over 50,000 ads and secondary research. And, it is true whether you consider the message an ad or not (remember, everything is advertising).

This print study led to another study AIM conducted, which is verified by scientific studies of how people “see” and “read” ads.[6] In our study, we formulated another concept called THE READERSHIP CHAIN® which takes place whenever and wherever you run a message (Figure 2).

We know that in a chain, the weakest link will break the chain. In advertising messages (or any messages), the same holds true.

Figure 2. The weakest link of the chain breaks it. This concept shows the strength of “graphics” to be the clue that holds attention and leads to readership.
Figure 2. The weakest link of the chain breaks it.
This concept shows the strength of “graphics” to be the
clue that holds attention and leads to readership.

For example, if your subject line in an email message is weak, your email will never be read. If you use HTML for your messaging in email, if the graphic is weak, no one will read the message. And so on.

Conducting advertising readership research will enable you to get a better understanding of how an audience will react to your message, which in turn will help you connect with your audience better, communicate better and help your brand. Such research enables you to be customer-centric, rather than product focused.

Other benefits to readership research include helping you prioritize how best to meet the needs of your target audience, or deciding on who to focus on, how to reach them, or what to offer them. Find out more about how AIM can help your messaging!


AIM Readership research will help you to understand your target market’s reaction to your messages in order to:

1)better know their needs, goals and challenges

2)help you shape your messages accordingly.

Conducting such research requires examination of the size, composition, words, graphics – everything about your message. This includes print, digital, email, websites or texts. The results of these examinations would be:

  1. Accurate Analysis: You’ll gain deep insights into audience behaviors, allowing for data-driven decisions (not just “gut feels”) that make the most of your messaging
  2. Enhanced Messaging: Based on the AIM research, you’ll be able to create messages that captivate and engage audiences, which over time, lead to higher customer acquisition and retention as well as building your brand image.
  3. More Efficient Marketing: You’ll be able to factor in predictability to management about new strategies based on your new understanding where audiences look, read and react.

In other words, using AIM Readership Research will give you an edge on your competitors, increase your ROI and improve your accessibility to audiences by identifying potential usability issues for users with different needs (i.e., a facility manager doesn’t see or read or inquire for the same things an architect does!).

AIM Readership Research allows you segmentation of your audiences, thereby giving your messages individualization (i.e., use of the product, their age, interests, etc.).


AIM uses a variety of tactics to gain this audience knowledge for you and the reaction of that audience to your messages. Which tactics are used depends on your particular situation and needs. In many cases, AIM uses the latest AI (artificial intelligence) programming in shaping the tactic itself. Here are some of the tactics AIM offers.

Qualitative research. This is a great method to determine the effectiveness of your messaging. AIM uses people from your target market to do this type of research, which is based on quality, not quantity. Qualitative research can be internet-based or phone-based.

Market research. Always the way to determine your market size and positioning, this technique involves a variety of tactics, including interviews, email surveys, site visits, focus groups and others. Each tactic has unique advantages, best determined by the product/issue you are exploring. A seasoned AIM analyst will help you select the best tactics that meet your objectives.

Interviews. An overlooked tactic but one of the most effective available, phone interviews are a powerful way to find out answers to message effectiveness. Combined sometimes with computer interface which shows the target your messaging, interviews are one of the highly used tactics in the AIM arsenal.

Surveys. This tactic is a key technology for decision makers to “stay in touch” with their target audiences, or use to explore a new market segment. Surveys support both quantitative and qualitative research solutions, and blend together data points that provide robust insights.

Social media analytics. Depending on the channel you are curious about, AIM can deliver actionable insights from a variety of tactics, from simple observational methods (i.e., counting queries or responses to a specific issue) or deep dive into the channel’s analytics itself.

Focus groups. These panels of target audience members are brought together in a zoom meeting for one of the most cost-effective tactics for ensuring perspective, analytic insight and objectivity are combined to make a sound strategic decision. Just hearing first hand from your customers and prospects changes the equation of modeling your messaging, and serves as a foundation to address your complex business issues.

Government. AIM partners with BillTrack50®, of the leading software solutions for tracking federal and state legislation. Often, your products fall under government ins and outs, and AIM can help navigate the complexity of government regulations and laws BEFORE and AFTER they pass.

AIM believes in a customized approach to solving complex marketing problems, and brings a host of tactics that have proven themselves over the 30 years we’ve been in business. Our seamless customer service handles all the details and will create the perfect environment for your project. In other words, focus on your business, and we’ll do the rest! Give us a call today.


Since Audience/Readership research is a valuable tool for companies to better understand their target audience and specific messages they are broadcasting, there are several ways you can use such research from AIM.

  1. Define Clear Objectives. Such research can help you determine specific goals and objectives for your marketing programs. Which messages are working? Which are falling on their face? What considerations have you overlooked in shaping your message? What do you want to achieve through your marketing efforts? These are just some of the questions that AIM readership studies can help you answer.
  2. Identify the Target Audience. Sometimes a company will believe that a specific audience is the target, when in fact, it’s an entirely different audience that makes the purchasing decision. AIM readership studies can help you figure this out. Our research helps identify and define your target audience, helping you shape and re-shape your messages to resonate with them. Our approach will evaluate demographics, psychographics, behavior, interests, needs and more. You’ll be talking TO your audience, not AROUND them.
  3. Segment the Audience. It is clear today that no one person makes a decision in most cases for a considered purchase. AIM research helps segment your audience into smaller, more specific groups based on common characteristics and preferences so you can uncover who the decision maker is likely to be. This allows for more personalized marketing messages to everyone in the value chain, and a better success rate in customer acquisition and retention.
  4. Create Buyer Personas. There’s a danger in creating personas (the aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others, as for example, all contractors only buy on price), but personas themselves are helpful in getting audience segmentation done right. AIM readership/audience research can help you develop detailed buyer personas for each segment without generalizing. The personas will include information about their demographics, pain points, goals, and buying behaviors, giving us abundant clues on how to talk to these different people.
  5. Understand Pain Points and Needs. AIM’S Audience/Adresearch has an underlying goal: uncover the pain points, challenges, and needs of a target audience. For example, every audience will complain about not having enough time. But, exploring that further, the initial pain point of not having enough time will reveal what is stealing that time (i.e., not having the right people, the right software, the right sales structure, etc.). That insight is what you need to better match your product to the target, and specifically define the problems your products or services solve for them.
  6. Choose the Right Channels. Not every one of your targets uses the same channels for their messaging, but they do use every channel at different times. AIM research helps uncover these differences, helping you select the most effective marketing channels to reach your target audience. This could include social media, email marketing, content marketing, SEO, PPC advertising, etc. No one has enough money to broadcast over all the channels available; however, the marketing goal is to find out which channels prospects and customers “hang around,” and then use those!
  7. Customize Offers and Incentives: In direct response, the offer is the second most important part of assuring success of a campaign (the list is the first). AIM studies help you understand how different offers and incentives can play a role in motivating your audience to a buying decision. We utilize the insights from research to create tailored offers, promotions, and incentives that appeal to each segment. Such focus will help increase conversion rates, which are ever-more important than simple response rates (i.e., a click or hit).
  8. Test and Optimize Campaigns: People use AIM research to test their campaigns, which has been a proven direct response technique for decades. Before rolling out a national campaign, AIM conducts territory tests on messages with specific targets. Continuously monitoring the performance of your marketing programs and conducting A/B testing to refine your strategies based on audience response helps your marketing campaigns work effectively.
  9. Personalize Customer Journeys: Implementing a personalized customer journey is a proven way to uncover gaps in your sales process. Once identified, these gaps can be plugged with specific offers, or messages that will motivate your customer and prospect base. Remember that each audience segment is in the sales funnel, and where they are in that funnel is the key to sales success. AIM research uncovers that position for you.
  10. Competitive Analysis: AIM audience and readership research can be used to uncover how your competitors are targeting the same audience. Often, competitors go unnoticed until it is too late – that is, until they have established a foothold in your market. With the speed of information these days, that happens more than you realize in EVERY market. AIM research will Identify gaps or opportunities to differentiate your marketing programs and help you spot these interlopers and deal with them effectively.
  11. Customer Relationships: One of the most successful uses of AIM research is the lost customer studies we conduct. Relationships require nurturing, and everyone loses customers. But why? Finding out why a customer bolts is the key to not only gaining them back, but stopping others from defecting. AIM research will help you engage with your customers through social media, email, and other channels to maintain their interest and trust.
  12. Ethical Considerations: A respect for privacy and ethical considerations in audience research is essential. AIM studies ensure compliance with data protection regulations and maintain transparency in your data collection practices. It’s a given these days!

By incorporating AIM Readership/Audience research into your marketing programs, you can create more effective and customer-centric strategies that resonate with your target audience, increase engagement, and drive better results. Remember that AIM research should be an ongoing practice to adapt to changing market dynamics and evolving consumer preferences.


Fill out this initial inquiry form so we can get an idea of what you’re looking for, and we’ll be in touch quickly to begin the discussions. “All things are a flowing,” said the philosopher, which means that everything is changing – quickly! There’s no time to waste so make this call now. 847-358-8558 and ask for Patty Fleider, the director of research. Patty will guide you into the proper channels for conducting such research. There’s no obligation for this discussion, except the obligation to not let a minute go to waste! Let us hear from you today.

[1] Finding Brand Success In The Digital World, Forbes Agency Council, by Jon Simpson.

[2] How Many Ads Do We See A Day In 2023, by Arina Serezchenko who notes “about 6,000 to 10,000 ads shown to a user daily in 2020.”

[3] Consumption and the Consumer Society by Brian Roach, Neva Goodwin, and Julie Nelson, p. 20.

[4] A Brief History of Native Advertising by Jerrid Grimm

[5] The Truth about Native Advertising by Jim Nowakowski. For another take on native advertising, you may be interested in a blog that discussed how Forbes ran six different covers on a single issue. At first, I thought it was a printing error, but after investigations, realized it was sponsored advertising – which no one wanted to talk about!

[6] Research on eye movements and advertisements can provide general theoretical insights (Rayner et al., 2001; Wedel and Pieters, 2008b). For instance, the domain is well-suited for investigating the relationships between eye movements and higher-level phenomena, such as memory and preference. Furthermore, work in this area can shed light on how we integrate text and images as we inspect our visual environments, as ads are often complex stimuli, composed of both elements. As Buswell (1935) noted in his classic study of eye movements and scene perception, this research may be also be useful from an applied perspective (see Duchowski, 2002 for a general review of applied eye movement research).