Today’s post looks at two case studies in integrated marketing communications – how paid and non-paid media interact in two major scandals – one with Nike and the other with United Airlines. The post is reprinted with permission from the Institute for Public Relations, and is written by three of its members: Katie Paine of Paine Publishing, Mark Stouse of Proof Analytics and Angela Jeffrey, APR, of ABX.  Contact information is below.  

Two Amazing Case Studies in how Paid, Earned and Owned Media work Together

“Cause and effect” in marketing and communications is not always what its practitioners believe.  Nike and United Airlines are excellent examples of how different external factors change the impact and business value that social controversy and corporate strategy ultimate deliver…or don’t.

After some brief scorching in social channels, Nike’s controversial gambit with Colin Kaepernick has proven a spectacular success. Revenue is up 31 percent in two weeks.  The key question, however, is can they sustain it, and what will it take to make that happen? What role did an integrated marketing strategy — using advertising, PR and social channels play — and what’s the effect of the larger business context?

As things stand today, advanced cause-and-effect analytics strongly suggest that Nike’s paid and earned efforts worked together in the short term to create the outcomes in revenue and stock price that we are seeing.  Likewise, it is clear today that the controversy that enveloped United Airlines in April 2017 had virtually no effect on the airline’s business performance beyond a short-term drop in share price.

The most recent Cone Social Impact Research, found that today’s shoppers, and particularly younger shoppers, expect  companies to take a strong stand on social issues and will reward companies that do, and punish companies that don’t. In that context, the Nike ad makes perfect sense. However, as powerful as social activism via highly empathetic marketing and communications can be, other market factors can be even more material under certain circumstances.

Three of the most impactful are demand elasticitycustomer sense of risk, and time lag.  Demand elasticity measures a change in the customer demand for a good or service when one or more market factors change.  Risk is self-explanatory; time lag is the amount of elapsed time between a cause and an effect – an example in the natural world would be the number of seconds that transpire between a lightning flash and a thunderclap. 

Let’s Look at Nike First

Demand for Nike products is highly elastic, meaning that the customer demand for their products not only can be quickly improved but also quickly degraded. Nike has a lot of competitors, which makes customer demand even more elastic. However, most Nike customers don’t feel a lot of risk around the decision to purchase a pair of shoes, so the time lag from “I love Nike” to cha-ching can be pretty fast.  We see this dynamic very often in retail and other short-cycle B2C.

The lack of intrinsic risk around buying a pair of shoes also means that Nike customers can be motivated emotionally. For example, many consumers want to feel a part of something greater than just buying shoes, so attaching the company to the right social cause can exert a powerful attraction. On the other hand, the problem is that once that emotional bell is rung, it gets harder and harder to ring it again and again in a short time frame. And that’s why new product and overall better customer experience is even more important for sustaining Nike revenue growth than the Kaepernick campaign or what follows.

If you were to graph the past week or so for Nike, one of the biggest factors you might want to look at is whether there was any significant short-term improvement in the company’s Net Promoter Score (NPS), commonly understood as the level of customer enthusiasm and support for a vendor among the target audiences.  And, in fact, that is exactly what ABX, a global advertising effectiveness research firm found. ABX has tested 150,000 ads in all media types.  Their ABX Index is based on all those tests of ads over the years. Anything over 100 is above average, under 100 is below average.  When they tested the :60 version of the Nike ad on a GenPop audience, it scored a 88 overall – significantly below average.

However, when you dive into the results for their specific target audiences (as we do in the two charts below) – millennials and particularly African American and Hispanic men –the ad was a clear home run. It turns out that its ABX score was brought down by males 55+ who hated the ad, giving it an ABX Index of 43. But among African American and Hispanic audiences and among millennials it scored well above average.

Corrected Demographics

Not that anyone really understood the message, ABX’s Message and Brand Clarity scores were dismal, indicating perhaps that the calls to action were stronger than the message itself.

Even more interesting, is ABX’s data on the impact the ad had on three other key factors that ABX tested: Purchase Intent, Recommendations and Likelihood of Talking about it with their friends and family.  Among millennial men on the “Recommend” index, it scored an eye-popping 409 and a 392 among African Americans. 

The spike in Nike sales also should come as no surprise after seeing the ABX data. On their “Purchase” score, Hispanics gave it a 261 and millennium males of all ethnicities gave it a 242.    Similarly, the volume of chatter about the ad was to be expected given that those same groups gave it a 350 and 360 respectively on the Talk About index.  

Corrected Race

Given that buying a pair of shoes is more of an impulse purchase with little attendant risk, we see a rapid conversion of this spiking support into strong sales. This short-cycle volatility is common in many B2C business cycles, and it is one reason why you see so much promotion in that sector.

Nike also had adopted a far more “political campaign” approach to the release of the Kaepernick ad, positioning it very much as an “agent provocateur” in the marketplace and supporting that positioning with a slew of pro-active PR efforts.

Proof Analytics CEO Mark Stouse interviewed a senior leader at Nike for this article, who indicated that the company’s strategy sought to leverage the clear division in the marketplace over Kaepernick and the #TakeAKnee controversy. Nike’s campaign knew the ad would inflame the conservative audiences, leading directly to the rapid activation of that base.

What’s interesting is that Nike was actually counting on the anti-Kaepernick portion of the audience to come out swinging hard in the first 24-48 hours after the ad campaign was released. This, in turn, would both activate a strong base of support for free speech and strengthen the Nike brand with their buying audience. Nike’s strategy represents a real jujitsu move against Kaepernick’s opponents, using them both to reignite the cause of free speech and motivate his supporters to buy shoes, almost in the same spirit as a campaign donation but with the added benefit of wearing a new, branded pair of Nike shoes.

In terms of integrated marketing tactics, the Kaepernick ad campaign is the anchor for a swirl of earned media and social interaction – the two are mutually reinforcing. The highest correlation to Nike’s improved sales in the short term is social engagement; it also is the most perishable over time. Moving forward, we should expect to see a fall-off in sales and engagement as the short-term demand balloon is satisfied by everyone wanting to “support Nike,” followed by an undulating rise over the next 12 months as Nike presumably does other things designed to sustain the momentum and get to a new sustainable level of growth. 

Against this likely positive trend line will come negative coverage of labor rights issues overseas and other problems that Nike continues to have. Some will be pushed by the opposition, (be it competitors or the anti-Kaepernick crowd) designed to reveal a corporate hypocrisy. Some will stick, some won’t, but the net/net is that demand for Nike’s products is very elastic, meaning that what is easily improved is also easily degraded. The key takeaway is that Nike will have to continue to activate more consumer enthusiasm with more powerful campaigns and better products, or the residual business value of Kaepernick (or any other single campaign) will fade fast.

Now let’s look at United Airlines.

Demand for United flights is very inelastic compared to Nike. Not as many competitors. Price is a dominant consideration, as is flight schedule. If their dates are flexible, many customers will wait for a cheaper fare, slowing the sales conversion.

In addition to price and schedule, most airline customers prioritize safety above social activism.  They may vent their rage on social media when a doctor gets dragged off a plane, and they may “hate UA,” but in the end they will fly United if the airline has the best price and flight schedule for their needs.

This means that while United Airlines had to endure a lot of negative press and social media activity for several weeks, none of it meant a thing for the company’s major areas of business performance. Ridership continued to climb in the weeks and months after the scandals, despite escalating fares. Revenue kept climbing, and profitability improved. The short-term stock price hit was erased over the ensuing weeks, and institutional shareholders took advantage of the dip in UA share price to increase their holdings.

United also learned – but understandably will never say it out loud – that the inelastic demand for its products, combined with the safety priority, means that social activism is not a good business investment for the airline. Put another way, social activism gets them little upside, and not investing in it has little downside.  In the ranking of customer priorities, it isn’t as important as price, schedule and safety. And that’s why United Airlines focuses on price, schedule and safety in their integrated marketing and communications.  The analytics tell them that as important as social principles may be to some, flyers are far more likely to switch to a competitor if United disrupts their travel or scares them to death in the air, than they would be if they didn’t agree with their social action, or lack thereof.

Weaving all of this together, marketers and communicators can take valuable lessons from Nike and United Airlines, despite the differences between the two companies:

  1. Know the business problem(s) you’re solving and invest accordingly.
  2. Polarized opinion and great controversy can help you, kill you, or mean nothing.
  3. Connect deeply with what motivates your customers and invest accordingly.
  4. Understand the “half-life” of your investments and invest accordingly.
  5. Understand where your risk lies and how quickly you can move past that zone.


If you have questions about this article or how ABX can help your brand, contact us HERE.

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Jeff Schamel

Vice President, Operations

Jeff Schamel Directs Operations for ABX with Experience from IPSOS and P&G

Jeff has more than 25 years of market research experience including project management, client service, operations, production and sales.

Before joining the ABX Senior Management team, Jeff was a Senior Account Manager at Ipsos, working with Procter & Gamble and other client assignments. Prior to that, he was Senior Project Manager for Opinion One, where he was responsible for guiding the company’s online, mall and other initiatives for eight years.

Jeff began his market research career with Cooper Research while participating in the Professional Practice Program at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. Upon graduating with his BS in Marketing and Management, Jeff led a team of data analysts as Group Manager at Matrixx Marketing Research (now Concentrix).

Jeff’s broad in-depth marketing research experiences enable him to bring a unique perspective to directing operations that creates effective and efficient environments to support a wide range of client activities.  Having come up in the industry alongside the advent and progression of online interviewing, he has a unique perspective on the benefits and challenges of conducting quality research resulting in meaningful results.

Jeff considers himself an amateur music historian and sports enthusiast, as well as a family man, who takes advantage of the many outdoor activities in his community including biking, hiking, kayaking and swimming.

Dr. Peter Moomaw

Co-Founder, Vice President, Development

Peter is the primary developer of operations technology and data analysis. As a chief visionary on the Research and Development team, Peter works to generate innovative ideas for the continued development of processes and protocols.

Peter brings 17+ years’ experience in software development in the market research industry. He was previously at Opinion One, where he was integral in the development of research software systems covering a number of areas.

Peter has a BA in Mathematics, a BS in Physics, and a PhD in Physics, all from the University Cincinnati.

Martin Geraghty
Martin Geraghty

Vice President, Client Services

Geraghty Brings Experience from Roper Starch, GfK, MRI and IPSOS to ABX

Martin has more than 20 years of experience in the market research space including business development, methodology, product design, operations, client service, analysis and sales. He is a member the ABX Management Group with both client-service and operational responsibilities. Before joining ABX, Martin held senior management positions at Roper Starch Worldwide, GfK, MRI (Mediamark Research) and Ipsos. At Ipsos, he managed client service covering all aspects of the research process including research design. He managed the development and implementation of several brand and advertising measurement programs across a broad range of business sectors, helping clients maximize marketing objectives and return on investment. Prior to joining Ipsos, Martin was Vice President at MRI and was involved in business development, day-to-day management and long-term planning and growth for syndicated and custom programs. He also developed and updated the organization’s operational infrastructure to bring new and improved measurements to the marketplace. Before joining MRI, Martin was a Vice President of Operations at GfK. He managed researchers developing programs to monitor and improve methodologies. He played a key role in overseeing profit responsibility of client programs. Prior to his role at GfK, he was Vice President of Research and Operations at Roper Starch Worldwide.
Michael Alf

Co-Founder Ocucom and ABX, Vice President, Software Development

Michael Alf Brings 12 Years’ Software Engineering in the Market Research Industry

Michael is one Founders of Ocucom, of which ABX is a division, and has over 12 years’ of software engineering experience in the market research industry. As a Lead Software Engineer with Ocucom, he brings a unique blend of a technological background along with hands-on market research experience. Michael specializes in providing custom software solutions utilizing Ocucom’s dynamic software platform to address unique client needs in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Prior to starting with Ocucom, Michael was a senior software engineer at Opinion One in Cincinnati, where he was one of the principal architects of the OASIS 2 Survey Software Package. He also played a key role in developing a licensable solution to bring to the market place as well as handling the logistics of on-site training and support of end-client users.

Michael obtained his B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Cincinnati.

Greg Tunstill

Co-Founder, Chief Information Officer

Greg Tunstill Leads the Creation of ABX Communications Tools

Greg Tunstill, a founder of ABX, is the Chief Information Officer responsible for ABX’s technical infrastructure and maintenance. He also leads the design and development of ABX’s communications tools, a critical component of its technology services.

Prior to joining ABX, Greg was Director of Network Operations of Opinion One since its inception in 1992. He designed and developed the communications systems that were the core of its data collection networks and was responsible for continuing development and implementation of information technologies. Prior to his position at Opinion One, he designed inventory control and expert systems for BellSouth field offices and worked as a consultant and independent contractor. In 1991 he joined Americom Research as a systems engineer where he advanced to Director of Network Operations and met members of the team that formed Opinion One.

Greg is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.

Julian Brown

Chief Technology Officer

Julian Brown is an ABX Founder and Chief Visionary for Strategic Planning

Julian brings 20+ years of software engineering and market research experience to ABX. As one of the Founders and in his position as Chief Technology Officer, Julian is the chief visionary responsible for strategic planning and development.

His primary day to day roles include management of software development, oversight of survey production, and lead architect for custom software development projects. As the principal technology architect, Julian adapts emerging technologies for use in market research. He is responsible for maintaining the “continuous development” philosophy.

Before becoming one of the Founders, Julian was Vice President, Software Engineering at Opinion One. In this capacity, he was responsible for the design and development of Opinion One’s core technology and licensing products.

Prior to Opinion One, Julian worked for Americom Research, starting as a Software Engineer and progressing to Director, Software Development. While at Americom Research, Julian pioneered the design and creation of one of the market research industry’s first fully interactive computer-aided interviewing suites.

Julian received his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Middle Tennessee State University.

Gary Getto


A Pioneer in Measuring Across all Media Types

Gary has an extensive background in product development, strategic planning, and sales/marketing. He is a frequent speaker to the advertising, marketing, and public relations communities.

Gary is a pioneer in efforts to measure and analyze the combined impact of news coverage, social media, and advertising communications on key business metrics, such as sales or product preferences, with ground-breaking work linking communications activity to business outcomes. He was also one of the first to apply artificial intelligence to better understand how communications impacts consumer behavior.

As part of these pioneering integrated measurements, the need to benchmark every ad and build a comprehensive database of advertising performance metrics for evaluating all advertising creative became clear. Gary has been part of the ABX management group that developed the methodology, technology, and criteria for measuring advertising performance globally, and at scale, in an affordable manner. 

Now Gary and all ABX partners work with communications leaders across a diverse set of industries to expand that understanding by incorporating the first-ever Gender Equality Index™, creative measurement solutions for ESG, Diversity & Inclusion, Ethnicities (in and out-of-country), Product Placement/Integration, Brand Fit™, Gaming, Audio and more.

Gary holds a B.S., in Mechanical Engineering from Lehigh University and a Masters in Management Science from Stevens Institute of Technology.

J. J. Klein​

Chairman & CEO

Developing Valid and Reliable Information through Syndicated and Custom Research

JJ Klein has devoted his entire career to developing more valid and reliable information through syndicated and custom longitudinal research programs for Fortune 500 companies. This extensive knowledge base enabled him to create and develop ABX, which now offers the most accurate normative database for advertising effectiveness measurement in the marketplace.

JJ brings more than 35 years of marketing, research, consulting, and technology experience in designing and developing methodologies and programs for long-term growth. He has exceptional strength in domestic and international new business development, strategic planning, and identifying and tracking consumer, retail, and industry trends.

Leadership in Top Global Research Firms

Early in his career, after attending City University in New York as a math and science major, JJ joined Simmons Market Research Bureau as a Project Director. Over time, he rose to Associate Executive Vice President. Among his accomplishments, JJ created the first online interactive data analysis and delivery system for agencies, media, institutions, client, and service companies.  

JJ and Bill Simmons then founded a new venture …Three Sigma Research Center. It was here that JJ, Chief Operating Officer, created the first major syndicated rating system for Newspapers in the U.S., which later became the Scarborough Report. Three Sigma Research was eventually sold back to Simmons; Simmons sold it to Scarborough; and then Scarborough was acquired by Nielsen.

Following the sale of Three Sigma, JJ joined Audits & Surveys Worldwide as a principal leading the sales tracking and market share audits for a broad range of retail and service establishments both domestically and internationally. Following the acquisition of Audits & Surveys by GfK, JJ joined Roper Starch as Executive Director, reporting directly to the Chairman.

Creation and Development of Ocucom™ and ABX™

In 2004, as he continued his industry visionary travels, all of JJ’s experience came together as he tackled new solutions for market research in the Internet age. He and four partners founded Ocucom™ and invented a research-proven, respondent-oriented Ocular™ approach to internet sampling and multi-modal interviewing methodology. For the first time, respondents could answer text-based questions within a visual communication world where the computer screen was the interviewer/communicator. Inventions continued such as Ocucom’s PreCast™, the first long-form video viewing solution in the industry.

Also, during this time, JJ’s early leadership in internet research methodology caught the eye of top-tier global research competitors. He ended up designing methodologies for their online survey capabilities.

Then, in early 2012, he formed ABX™ as an outgrowth of Ocucom. JJ had conceived the idea for ABX some 15 years prior but had to wait for internet maturation and online panel/sampling companies to evolve. ABX partners focused on JJ’s ABX concept and methodology by building an infrastructure and a 5-year formative database before opening to the market in 2018. The new company offered the first high-quality Ocular research system for all ads in all media types with detailed, never-before analytics; the first syndicated, all-media type ad effectiveness platform; results in 24-to-48 hours on dashboard, and significantly lower costs. At ABX, as at Ocucom, inventions have continued such as the expansion of the ABX syndicated program into the first-ever global solution, and the first Gender Equality Index™. Solutions have expanded to include creative measurement for ESG, Diversity & Inclusion, Ethnicities (in and out of country), Product Placement/Integration, Brand Fit, Gaming, Audio, and more.

A Career Devoted to Validity and Reliability in Market Research

JJ’s background brings together an extremely unique blend of extensive experience in designing and developing global and regional longitudinal research programs. His accomplishments include the design and initiation of programs and methods that produce more valid and reliable information. They also include contributions to the market research profession through association membership, speaking, writing, and presenting.

Like Nielsen for TV, Arbitron for Radio, and MRI for Magazine, JJ’s original design for the newspaper program continues as the Scarborough Report ratings standard for Newspaper.  Today, JJ leads ABX as a syndicated and custom research service for ad effectiveness and gender equality, which have quickly become the gold standards of their own.

Angela Jeffrey, APR

Vice President, Brand Management

National Award-Winning Veteran of Public Relations, Advertising and Marketing

Angela is an internationally known speaker and national award-winning veteran of public relations, advertising and marketing.  She has been a teacher and leader in the use of metrics to measure communications impact for over 20 years, especially at the intersection of PR and Advertising.

Angela is primarily responsible for all ABX marketing efforts, and for projects that involve PR or social media measurement. She is the primary driver of our collaboration with the prestigious Institute for Public Relations as we develop methods to measure the impact of PR and social media on advertising effectiveness.

Prior to joining ABX, Angela was Strategy Director at Salience Insight, (now CARMA), a global provider of PR effectiveness measurement. Previously, she was a Vice President at Surveillance Data, Inc., an international analytics powerhouse that specializes in predictive modeling. Angela continued as a key leader upon the sale of her division to VMS and helped develop Vantage, with Gary Getto, the first platform to measure the combined impact of PR and Advertising.

Angela graduated summa cum laude from Southern Methodist University with a BFA in Journalism and BBA in Marketing.



Diane Light Waight

Vice President, Business Development

Diane Light Waight handles Sales, Business Development, and Marketing for ABX

Diane has 20+ years of experience helping Marketing, Advertising, and PR decision-makers at global brands, media companies, and agencies increase their ROI by connecting and authentically engaging their target customers through Sales, Business Development. MarTech, AdTech, Big Data, Market Research, SaaS, eCommerce, and Integrated Marketing.

She is passionate about her family, entertainment, health & wellness, empowering women, and environmental sustainability.