TV Ads in the Age of DVRs

November 24th, 2008 | Sources: Economist

In the Jurassic period of the information age, otherwise known as the late 1970s, there were no cable-ready TVs, electronic games or cell phones and of course there was no Internet. Times were good for TV marketers. They could reach 90% of US households with prime-time ads on just 3 networks.

In 2008, they would be happy to reach 30% with such a strategy, and DVRs mean viewers can skip the ads anyway.

But now things might be looking up for TV ad sellers. Researchers from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College have found that TV advertisements can influence brand preferences even when viewed in fast forward mode.

James Gips and Adam Brasel tracked the eye-movements and subsequent brand selections of participants watching a nature documentary on TV. The scientists showed that viewers focus intensely on the screen while fast forwarding commercial sequences so they don’t miss the start of normal programming.

In fact they’re paying closer attention than when ads are displayed at normal speed.

This explains why fast-forwarded brand images displayed for just a third of a second influenced future preferences, but only if they were centered on the screen and surrounded by little clutter. 

The scientists had inserted ads for Flake and Aero, two UK chocolate bars unfamiliar to most US viewers. Study participants fast-forwarding though ads in which the brand logo was displayed simply and on center screen were twice as likely to choose that brand during follow-up. Such preferences were not observed when ad lay-out deviated from the centered, uncluttered presentation.

So get ready to see brand images parked squarely and simply in mid-screen next time you’re leaning on fast forward.


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