The bold proclamations in "What Sticks: Why Most Advertising Fails and How to Guarantee Yours Succeeds," to be released next month by Kaplan Publishing, are the result of five years of research on campaigns from 36 of the nation's top advertisers. The book, penned by Rex Briggs, a veteran market researcher and founder of the firm Marketing Evolution, and Greg Stuart, CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, may well be the most important advertising research since the "How Advertising Works" study of the early 1990s.

The book is something of a marketing 12-step program for Mr. Stuart, who in a footnote actually apologizes to each of his clients from that era by corporate name, including American Express, PepsiCo's Frito-Lay, Apple and Sears.

Ad agencies, the target of nearly nonstop flagellation both self-inflicted and otherwise in the past decade, may find some solace in the book. It pins much of the blame for marketing's woes on marketers and their failure to even define success for campaigns at the outset -- much less measure it properly on the back end. Of the 36 marketers the authors researched, only two -- P&G and Cingular -- had a clear definition of success for each marketing effort at the outset, Mr. Briggs said in an interview.

The book actually comes across as remarkably hopeful amid a growing genre of "advertising is dying, and we're all going to get fired" literature. TV advertising clearly works, according to numerous studies reported in the book. It just may not deliver returns as good as those provided by other media overlooked because of organizational inertia or a lack of rigorous, ongoing ROI tracking.

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