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Lab42-Consumer-Beliefs-Ad-Creative-Product-Recall-Jan2013Broadly speaking, what types of creative work best in advertising? Survey results from Adobe and Edelman Berland indicate that consumers want ads that tell them stories. According to Nielsen, the most-liked TV ads in 2012 relied on “audience-appropriate humor, an ownable creative concept and a relatable, emotional appeal,” while Ace Metrix finds that the most effective ads “stressed innovation while embracing cause and humor.” A common theme? Humor, which seems to appeal more to Americans than to citizens of other countries, and which consumers believe makes them more likely to remember a product, according to new survey results from Lab42.

The Lab42 results are based on a survey of 500 US consumers, examining their perceptions of TV ads and their ideas of how ads should engage them. (The questions were related to all forms of advertising, rather than to any specific medium.)

When asked what ads make them more likely to remember a product, a clear majority of respondents (71%) chose funny ads, with educational (12%), sexy (8%), serious (4%), and patriotic (3%) ads far behind. Still, it’s not enough to make ad viewers laugh: asked what ads should do, 31% said they should “make me aware of new products,” 20% believe they should “educate me,” and 14% say they should “relate to me.”

The educational aspect of ads cannot be ignored. In a study released in July 2012, Ace Metrix revealed that humor and purchase intent are often unrelated, at least when it comes to TV advertising. Measuring humor against likability, Ace Metrix found a 0.31 correlation, indicating that the more consumers perceive an ad to be funny, the more they find it likeable. There is also a positive correlation with attention (0.30) and watchability (0.15). But, consumers see funny ads as less informative (-0.22 correlation), and are less likely to change (-0.07) or desire (-0.08) brands because of a funny ad.  The study concludes that low information and relevance of many humorous ads ends in them creating less desire for the advertised products than ads which don’t have comedy as their primary theme, noting that the funny ads that performed best in effectiveness were also informative.

Taken in combination, the research from Lab42 and Ace Metrix suggest that perceptions of behavior and actual behavior may differ. That is, consumers may believe they’re more receptive to funny ads, but actually not be. In the end, as the Nielsen and Ace Metrix studies attest with regards to TV ads, marrying humor with informativeness and emotion may prove most effective (at least until consumer attitudes change again…).

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