It was only a decade ago that the media marketplace was attempting to retrofit digital metrics with linear mindsets. Digital buyers and sellers did business in a sidebar, ostensibly because precious few mainstream media folks truly understood how to integrate the metrics of behavioral “clicks” with “opportunities-to-see.” Although Google’s contextual search engine gained popularity in the late 1990’s, it took several more years for the industry to begin its love affair with behavioral and contextual targeting. By 2005, we found ourselves debating the merits of traditional metrics in the face of behavioral targeting. Which would advertisers ultimately find more useful in their business planning – reach or relevance?
At Turner Broadcasting we asked, “Why not both?”
TVinContext, launched in spring 2008, offers advertisers an opportunity to run creative adjacent to contextually relevant scenes across a wide selection of titles in our movie library. Advertisers are placed in an “A” position in the commercial pod immediately following the contextually relevant scene. In essence, TVinContext broadens the concept of endemic product placement to a wider set of potential content/advertiser associations.
Using a broad-based entertainment vehicle like movies expands the potential reach beyond the niche of endemics (e.g., home improvement enthusiasts). However, unlike true endemics in which the ethos of the entire content is matched with an advertiser, TVinContext seeks to establish links between individual scenes and ads. Would these links be powerful enough to generate impact on potential consumers? The challenge for Turner Research was to prove that reach could not only be delivered with relevance, but that the combination was measurably impactful. We began with a deep dive into the principles of “priming.”
Priming is a form of implicit memory that does not require that you can consciously recall or recognize the item you were previously exposed to. Exposure to certain stimuli (words, pictures, music) unconsciously influences the brain’s processing of subsequent stimuli. Over 20 years of academic research into priming has found that:
Priming occurs when people do not consciously perceive contextual cues;
It only takes 50 msec to prime an object;
The effects of priming have been shown to last up to a year;
Priming effects are observable to the same degree in all age groups.
TVinContext depends on the ability of the selected scenes to prime the viewer to internalize the ad creative more readily. This presents some difficult research questions:
·Most effectiveness research is dependent on recall. Nielsen IAG’s business model is built on it. How do you prove effectiveness if the very tool you’re measuring is dependent on non-conscious response?
·Could the construct of engagement and its myriad components (emotional and thematic congruence, attention, memory) offer some credible metric of value to the marketplace?
Addressing the Questions
With 15 brands on board in Fall 2008, Turner Research launched a multi-phase effectiveness research program that explored both conscious and non-conscious response to advertising. The research design purposely included traditional survey methods (OTX) and those within the emerging biometric and neuroscience fields (Innerscope, Neurofocus). The later included measurements of galvanic skin response, respiration, heart rate, eye-tracking, and electroencephalography (EEG) or brainwave monitoring. Following are highlights of our research findings. (A fuller examination will be presented at the ARF Re:Think Conference in March.)
Revelations on Recall
As researchers, we are well aware of consumers’ inability to accurately report on their own behavior. We have not, however, considered that consumers are equally poor at reporting their emotional responses and cognitive impressions. We suspect it, particularly in certain cases of bias (respondents are unlikely to admit to certain prejudices or unpopular sentiments), but we don’t truly consider that they may not even be aware of, let alone be able to articulate, their feelings.
Using traditional survey methods, we demonstrated how conscious responses aren’t indicative of non-conscious learning. So, for example, while primed respondents for one of our participating brands self-reported unaided recall 11% below the unprimed group, the same primed group accurately associated the brand with its key attributes 7-11% more readily than those were unprimed. This is just one of a handful of examples in which this phenomenon presented itself.
The real story is in the benefits to the advertiser for message reception and purchase intent. In fact, 61% of all tested brands experienced a statistically significant lift in brand value recognition when the ad was primed. Further, among respondents who identified contextual and emotional links between the movie scenes and the ads, purchase consideration doubled (32% vs. 15% and 39% vs. 16% respectively).
Obviously, ad recall is important, and in the majority of cases (67%) where we purely tested primed vs. unprimed scenarios, ad recall scores among primed respondents outpaced those who were unprimed by a range of 5-17%. The TVinContext findings suggest that in measuring advertising effectiveness on television, ad recall alone is not a reliable indicator of message breakthrough.
For the advertising industry this has great significance on questions we should be asking about measuring effectiveness – how reliable is recall? Which is more impactful – a conscious or non-conscious impression? As our industry struggles with accountability, how can we begin to quantify and qualify non-conscious impressions relative to conscious ones?
All the World’s a Prime
Working with our neuroscience partners we were able to gauge levels of engagement through metrics such as memory, attention and emotional response. This work led us to explore, isolate and improve the variables that contribute to more impactful scene/ad pairings. Priming elements that create linkage between content and advertising are layered, subtle and often reliant on combinations of contextual cues. Ideal pairings will encompass visual, aural and conceptual congruency. This learning has particularly helped Turner to develop more layered levels of detail in our meta-tagging processes, as well as greater coordination with clients in selecting appropriate creative.
Using the priming concept adroitly, TVinContext was able to:
Boost viewer engagement with commercials by creating optimal visual, aural and conceptual links;
Reinforce the brand as a member of a particular category and thus strengthen its position within the viewer’s consideration set;
Align the brand with one or more desirable benefits and/or attributes in the viewers’ minds.
In short, reach and relevance can be achieved in television, but that’s just the beginning. There is much more to be learned and explored in matching the best of what television programming has to offer with advertising creative.
(Stacey Lynn Schulman is senior vice president of Turner Entertainment Ad Sales Research. In her role, Schulman works closely with David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Before joining Turner, Schulman spent ten years at The Interpublic Group of Cos. in a variety of executive research and marketing positions, including president of the company’s Consumer Experience Practice).