Why Are TV Viewers Watching Ads? Not Because They’re Entertaining

July 25, 2013

This article is included in these additional categories:

Creative & Formats | Television

AvidOvum-Why-Watching-TV-Ads-July2013In an age of growing DVR use (sometimes in order to skip commercials) and increasingly multi-tasking behavior (with mobile owners spending perhaps an estimated one-third of their ad viewing time looking at their devices), Avid and Ovum set out to ask TV audiences why they continue to watch TV ads. Based on an online survey [download page] of more than 3,000 consumers across the US, UK, Germany, and Brazil, the researchers found that viewer passivity appears to be a bigger factor than the ad creative itself. The quality of the editorial content also appears to be a bigger influence on viewers than the quality of the ad.

Across each of the 5 genres measured, respondents were more likely to say that they watch ads because they are “really enjoying the show and… want to watch through the ad break” and because “it doesn’t seem worth it to change the channel” than because they perceive the ads to be entertaining.

Breaking down the responses by genre, the study finds that the influence of the editorial content for ad viewing was highest when watching movies (29.8%), and lowest when watching kids shows (13.6%). Passivity (it being not worthwhile to change the channel) was most influential when watching dramas (13%) and least influential when watching kids shows (9.4%).

Each of those reasons was more of an influence than the ads themselves being entertaining. A high of 8.9% of said that was why they watched ads during kids shows, down to 7.2% when watching movies.

Overall, the researchers note that two-thirds of respondents watch ads if “both the editorial content and the advertising content are high quality.” While the study doesn’t indicate if there were other options offered in the survey for watching ads, it’s still important to see that fewer viewers say they watch the ads because they find them entertaining than because they don’t see the value in changing the channel.

So what drives ad recall? When asked what they enjoyed about the last ad they found memorable, a plurality 47% of respondents said the ad was funny, easily the top response, and aligning with prior survey results from Lab42, which similarly found US consumers believing that humorous ads make them more likely to remember a product. While consumers clearly believe that humor spurs recall, there is some debate about the actual effectiveness of funny ads. For example, last year, Ace Metrix found that humor and purchase intent are unrelated in TV advertising, while more recently, Unruly recommended that brands avoid humor when trying to produce viral videos.

While Unruly found that viral videos tend to produce feelings of “warmth” and “pride,” respondents to the Avid and Ovum study were least likely to enjoy their most recent memorable ad because it was “moving.” For reference, after humor, respondents were most likely to say they enjoyed the ad because they liked the story (32%) and because they liked the characters in it (31%).

About the Data: Consumers were surveyed via web panel from a representative age, demographic, and gender distribution.

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