Ever wonder what goes through the mind of a “Geek” or “Greek” (frat boy) when watching TV? Some of us may not want to know, but that’s not the case for Spike and its Guy’s Choice Awards (GCAs)—the year’s biggest “boys night out” for American men.
Spike TV partnered with Innerscope Research, a leader in the neuromarketing research field, to study the emotional experience of young men at different life stages as they watched the GCAs. The non-conscious emotional engagement of fraternity brothers (Greeks) was compared to that of accountants (Geeks) to find out if all guys relate and respond to the GCAs’ in-your-face antics and bachelor party environment in the same way.
Since up to 95% of brain processing occurs below conscious awareness, Spike tapped into what these “Geeks” and “Greeks” were feeling at an unconscious level using Innerscope’s biometrics to remove the conscious impact of stereotypes and social biases. Participants viewed the GCAs in an uninterrupted, natural manner as changes in heart rate, respiration, motion, and yes, even skin sweat, were passively collected on a wireless monitoring belt.
Greeks and Geeks Respond Similarly
Both the Greeks and the Geeks spent 75% of their time viewing the GCAs in a highly-engaged state with the average time spent “highly engaged” increasing to more than 8 out of every 10 seconds by the end of the show. This extended level of engagement is more likely to occur with events like the Super Bowl—and now the GCAs. Most importantly, the GCA program, including the commercial breaks, was so compelling that both audience groups stayed attentive and unconsciously involved throughout, regardless of their personal backgrounds.
In fact, the Greeks and Geeks even exhibited similar engagement patterns, including specific instances of peak engagement with programming content featuring hot women, comedic bits, and the “Dbags of the Year” award (yes, all types of men like hot women). But, it wasn’t just women that appealed to them. The biometric readings revealed in this video show both Greeks and Geeks engaging with snowboarder Shawn White being recognized as “Chairman of the Board.”
There was also strong evidence that the reward of advertising on Spike outweighs the risk for brands that want to connect with young men. Biometrics showed that the integrated ad content generated the highest levels for emotional engagement.
Successful brand integrations during the GCAs helped ads break through to viewers. One of the sponsored brand integrations that ran during the midpoint of the show notably primed both audiences to experience higher engagement with the ad when it ran for a second time during the final break. Greeks experienced a 10% point lift and the Geeks experienced a 28% point lift from when the ad aired at the start of the GCAs. While repeat views during the same program often result in decreasing engagement with each view, this lift demonstrates that integrations do connect with the audience when content is relevant and clearly tied back to the program.
Greeks and Geeks were also asked questions to understand their experiences in their own words. The biometric methodology revealed what these self-reporting responses could not—unbiased non-conscious emotional response to programming and ads at a moment-to-moment level.
For example, the Geeks identified the “Guy Movie of the Year” award as their favorite, but the most emotionally engaging award was the “Holy Grail of Hot,” where they reached a peak engagement score of 101 while Jennifer Biel was at the microphone (watch for yourself). Maybe they were embarrassed to admit that an award with so much sex appeal was the most engaging. More likely, they were not consciously aware that it evoked such a strong response. This difference highlights the power of measuring non-conscious emotional response at the moment of experience.
Greeks and Geeks Make Good Teachers
When it comes to impact, Spike’s foray into biometrics delivered on the primary goals, which were ad sales-related. Spike was able to assure advertisers that all guys can like Spike, even at its spikiest. A guy needs a place to be a guy, and the effectiveness of this environment was uniquely demonstrated to sponsors.
Additionally, for Spike TV Research this was a big win, because they were able to get “in the heads” of young guys, revealing their visceral reaction to the programming and marketing content created specifically for them. The visual experience of seeing men react on a moment-by-moment basis to the GCAs brought a new understanding of how guys tick and further opened minds to the capacity of research to bring valuable insights in new and different ways.
This unique look at the inner workings of Geeks and Greeks awarded Spike and Innerscope first place in the 2011 CTAM Insights Conference Case Study Competition, which was presented to cable industry colleagues in Chicago in June. This was the first year where the CTAM Insights Conference audience of cable peers helped decide first place via on-site voting, making this a true “choice award.” CTAM continues to offer unique forums to showcase research that helps the cable industry grow.
(Beth Coleman is Senior Vice President of Ad Sales Research for MTV Networks Entertainment Group, which includes Comedy Central, Spike, CMT and TV Land and their respective digital assets. She leads the research team in providing audience measurement, analytics and is charged with making the consumer connection with the group’s varied audiences. You can contact her at [email protected].
Brian Levine is President and Co-Founder of Innerscope Research, Inc. His background in consumer research includes directing R&D teams for a variety of high-profile companies and for leading all front-end development for the creation of Major League Baseball’s successful network of websites. You can contact him at [email protected].)

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