Advertising Principles - Evidence-based principles

Finalist for AMA’s 2011 Best Book in Marketing

A complete description of the principles has
been published in Persuasive Advertising

German Edition available

Chinese Version available

Group Process for Evaluation: Excerpt from Persuasive Advertising



Multiple Anonymous Authentic Dissent (MAAD)


Here is an excerpt from Scott Armstrong’s Persuasive Advertising.



Experimental studies have shown that authentic dissent (that is, when people are arguing for what they believe) is more effective than the DA procedure. This occurs partly because the group realized that an authentic dissenter might change, whereas the role of the DA is not to change. Furthermore, the assignment of the role did little to protect the people playing Devil’s Advocates; they became unpopular. While this also happened to authentic dissenters, people tended to respect authentic dissenters for their courage.


Those with authentic beliefs do a better job in arguing their positions than do those who are merely assigned to the role. Based on their experiments, Nemeth et al. (2001) found that authentic dissenters were able to get group members to focus more on opposing thoughts than supporting ones, thus contributing to more opinion change.

With authentic dissent, potential dissenters realize that they might become unpopular; so they are usually reluctant to speak up. In addition, as with the DA, it is time-consuming because only one person dissents, while the rest defend; it can lead groups to bolster their arguments rather than to think about how to overcome objections.

These problems can be overcome by a procedure that I refer to as Multiple Anonymous Authentic Dissent (MAAD). This involves asking experts, including all those involved with a given proposal, to act as dissenters. Each person independently writes all potential defects that he perceives in a proposed Glossary Link campaign. They then send their defect lists (unsigned) to an administrator who organizes, edits, and circulates the list to the group. Each expert then assumes that each of the objections has merit and describes ways to deal with the objections, then sends them (again unsigned) to the administrator. Finally, the suggested improvements are then summarized by the administrator and provided to the group so that they can make appropriate revisions to the campaign. This process can be repeated.

To ensure that group members respond in a timely fashion, the MAAD process can be conducted during a meeting by taking a time-out for individual work.

Judging from related research on group processes, MAAD should be effective at improving proposals. Because many people can be involved in finding defects, the likelihood that important defects will be discovered increases. This process is analogous to a scientific peer review. As is known from research on peer reviews, individual reviewers catch only some of the errors when they review papers for publication. For example, in an experiment on medical research, 68% of the “reviewers” of a fictitious paper with intentional errors did not realize that the conclusions in the paper were not supported by the results (Baxt et al. 1998).

Properly used, efficiency will be higher with MAAD than with traditional meetings (or with DA) because time is not wasted in defending the original campaign. Instead, the group effort goes into improving it. Under MAAD, the group is more likely to accept changes because they are the ones proposing the changes.

The need for anonymity in dissent is often critical to one’s survival in an organization. This calls for contributions by everyone on the project as well as a summary that is done in a way that will protect the identities of individuals.



Baxt, William G et al. (1998), “Who reviews reviewers? Feasibility of using a fictitious manuscript to evaluate peer reviewer performance,” Annals of Emergency Medicine, 32, 310-317.


Nemeth, Charlan J., et al. (2001) “Improving decision making by means of dissent,” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 31 (1), 48-58.

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