DAGMAR Explained in 5 Minutes

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Defining Advertising Goals for Measured Advertising Results (DAGMAR) is a marketing methodology written by Rusell Colley and published in 1961 by the Association of National Advertisers. DAGMAR teaches advertisers how to rework advertising campaigns to have clear and measurable objectives. Solomon Dutka expanded on the principles in a second edition published in 1995.

Learn more about DAGMAR, its principles, and how businesses use it.

Definition and Examples of DAGMAR

DAGMAR educates advertising students and practitioners on how to evaluate advertising expenditures and measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. To do this, every advertising goal must be realistic and measurable against a benchmark.

  • Alternate name: Defining Advertising Goals for Measured Advertising Results
  • Acronym: DAGMAR

A common advertising mistake that DAGMAR addresses is an unclear advertising objective. An unclear objective, for example, could be “to increase brand awareness of dish soap product Brand X.” Conversely, a DAGMAR-inspired advertising objective might be “to increase the number of consumers who identify Brand X with ingredient Y as a formula that is tough on grease but gentle on the hands from 10% to 40%.” 

This level of specificity provides real numbers and measurable objectives to inform the success (or failure) of an advertising campaign.

How Does DAGMAR Work?

In the 1920s, advertisers did not have any metric to measure their return when investing in advertising. This was somewhat addressed in the 1940s when radio, TV rating services, and audience measurement devices yielded some useful data. DAGMAR brings advertising a step further by collecting data before and after a campaign, allowing advertisers to see the numerical results of their efforts. Successful advertising is achieved when it elicits a favorable change in a person’s knowledge and attitude toward purchasing a specific brand.

DAGMAR focuses on moving consumers through the following stages of commercial communication:

  1. Awareness: The consumer knows the brand exists.
  2. Comprehension: The consumer understands what the product is and its function.
  3. Conviction: The consumer decides they want to buy the product.
  4. Action: The consumer takes action (e.g., makes the purchase, calls a representative, attends a demonstration).

These stages provide useful metrics when creating a benchmark to measure the results of an advertising campaign. Accordingly, before and after a campaign, the advertiser should measure the following:

  1. How many members of the target audience know the brand?
  2. How many members of the target audience understand the benefits of the product or service?
  3. How many members of the target audience want to buy the product or service?
  4. How many members of the target audience have taken action?

Naturally, these questions can yield measurable data. For example, only 60% of consumers surveyed knew of Brand X before the advertising campaign. Six months after the campaign launch, 80% of consumers surveyed have heard of Brand X.

It is unlikely that a single advertising campaign will move a consumer from a complete state of awareness to the actual purchase. Rather, advertising will most likely move the consumer from just one stage to the next. Therefore, a particular advertising campaign may have an objective that addresses only one of these stages.

For example, one advertising goal may be to obtain 80% brand recognition after the campaign. Another campaign may aim to convince 1,000 customers to take action by calling and scheduling a consultation.

Although one of the goals of advertising is sales, do not mistake a direct relationship between advertising performance and sales results. An advertising campaign can improve the probability of a sale, but it will not guarantee one. There are multiple factors independent of an advertising campaign that can affect sales, such as seasonality, political events, and availability of one brand versus another.

Advertising vs. Marketing

Advertising is distinguishable from marketing. Marketing is the wider umbrella that encompasses how a product is transported to where they’re assembled. Advertising falls under the marketing umbrella. It focuses on communication and psychological effects, such as brand recognition. 

To demonstrate the differences, consider the following marketing and advertising objectives.

  • Marketing Objective: Capture 10% of the market share in two years.
  • Advertising Objective: Attain 70% brand recognition within six months after the campaign.

In this scenario, the advertising objective does not address market share—that is a marketing objective. Rather, the advertisement focuses on brand recognition. Specifically, does the advertising communicate effectively enough so that 70% of consumers recognize the brand when they hear about it?

Because an advertising goal is communication-related, all advertising goals should be communication tasks. In other words, you shouldn’t assign a task to an advertising objective that it is incapable of delivering.

Consider this next example:

  • Marketing Objective: Reduce excess year-end inventories to normal levels.
  • Advertising Objective: Convince 100,000 consumers to visit 10,000 dealers within two months.

Inventory levels are not communication-focused, so this is a marketing objective. An ad that communicates to buyers that a) they need this product and b) they need to go into a dealer to buy it does focus on communication—hence, it is an advertising objective.

Requirements for DAGMAR

The DAGMAR methodology is rooted in the following principles:

Advertising goals succinctly describe the communication aspects of the marketing job: Advertisers need a clear idea of what objective they are trying to achieve.

Objectives are written in measurable and finite terms: Advertising goals must be put down on paper and agreed upon by all those participating in the advertising campaign.

Decision-makers and the creators agree on the objective: Decision-makers and creative executors both agree on what needs to be done before agreeing on how best to do it.

Advertising goals are grounded in data and analysis: Objectives are based on the analysis of the recent and complete marketing intelligence available.

Advertising results can be measured against benchmarks: Product brand equity, such as product knowledge and buy propensity, is measured both before and after the advertising campaign.

Key Takeaways

  • The Association of National Advertisers published DAGMAR, a marketing methodology coined by Russell Colley, in 1961.
  • DAGMAR structures advertising objectives in a way that is clear and measurable so that advertisers can better evaluate the results of their efforts.
  • Advertising objectives are always communication tasks and should not be confused with overarching marketing goals.
  • Awareness, comprehension, conviction, and action are the stages of commercial communication. An advertising campaign’s purpose is to guide consumers through these stages.
  • The core principles of DAGMAR are that advertising goals must be succinct, measured against benchmarks, and grounded in analysis; and that decision-makers and creators must agree on the goal.