Science and common sense (finally) agree on TV advertising

From Media Daily News this morning comes a report that the traditional five-week TV ad campaign should be cut in half, because viewers get sick of the repetition (Who knew?). The study comes from The PreTesting Company’s MediaCheck initiative. The company is studying viewing habits of 2,500 homes via its system in Omaha, Nebraska.

(Lee Weinblatt, CEO of The PreTesting Company) said that TV advertising reaches a saturation point faster than most advertisers and agencies realize. Other advertisers scored as low as an 11% rate of commercial completion. Weinblatt wouldn’t reveal the names of those companies.

So far, Weinblatt said the major takeaway from this test is “that TV works [for advertisers]. But the things killing TV commercials are overexposure and poor creative.”

After two weeks of watching commercials, viewers generally become fatigued, said Weinblatt. The remedy? “Give them more interesting commercials,” he said. One advertiser–Subway–kept changing its creative during the test, and experienced less weariness among viewers.

Like this is a bulletin? It’s interesting that the ad industry will probably agree with this information, when they’ve (we’ve) intuitively known all along that it was so. One of the quirks of our Modernist culture is that we don’t believe our gut until it’s validated scientifically.

Meanwhile, another bit of advertising common sense was revealed over the weekend in a Miami Herald article about erinMedia, a south Florida company that’s trying to compete with Nielsen. The company culls data from various set-top boxes (digital cable, TiVo, etc.) to provide very precise measurements of viewer activity regarding commercials.

The line denoting the number of people watching a baseball game holds steady through innings and commercial breaks, with minuscule blips as a few viewers tune in and out.

Then the line suddenly dives to the bottom of the screen and stays there.

“This shows people tuned out and didn’t come back like in previous commercial breaks,” said Frank Foster, chief executive of erinMedia, pointing at the chart on his laptop. “So we look back and we see that was when a life insurance commercial came on.”

Channel executives might conclude that although the ad pulled in revenue, it cost them in audience.

These types of common sense discoveries that science is providing ought to raise a few eyebrows along Madison Avenue. What they really reveal is the extent to which broadcasters have been killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Is it too late to change?

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