I’ve been reading a lot of articles about content marketing and attending conferences that feature seminars on the “death of interrupt advertising.” As a result, I was intrigued to see how Duane Varan, Chief Research Officer of ESPN Media and Advertising Lab, would address the opposing viewpoint in his talk “Cultivating Ad Receptivity; Strategies for Countering Ad Avoidance” at TMRE this week.

For the proper context, Duane provided a description of the two sides of the equation: the advertisement and the viewer. He then listed the factors to consider on each side of the equation. The ad factors included: creative, program, pod architecture, history, platform, format and other. The viewer factors included: individual traits, device control, disposition, viewing state, distractions, social influences and other.

To further illustrate the dynamics, Duane talked about the four viewing states: reluctant, relaxed, excited, and—lastly—favorable, which is the catch-all or other category.  As an example, when you watch TV with a partner, one of you may be the “reluctant” viewer … NFL Sundays versus the Real Housewives. The media lab maintains impact scoring of advertisements with viewing states averaging reluctant at 46, relaxed at 43, excited at 60 and favorable at 29.

An interesting note that generated conversation after the session was the halo effect: i.e., a great moment in a sports show transfers to the brand; however, the best ad placement is the ‘C’ position or third ad in the commercial break. Apparently, the research shows that the first two ads may be overshadowed by the experience of the event and therefore not benefit from the halo effect.

We saw results of an interesting study on disabling the fast forward feature. The clear benefit to advertisers is unaided recall scores go from 24 to 35.5 when fast forwarding is disabled. The test results showed that media outlets can safely disable fast forwarding without a significant consequence to the program or the distribution partner.

Duane talked about another study showing how brand integrations (e.g., a delivery truck bearing an advertiser’s logo in the background of an for one second) lift purchase intent 41.6 – 54.8.

His research also shows that advertisers can overcome media multi-tasking (i.e. viewing more than one screen or device simultaneously) by presenting banner ads in junction with TV ads.

Finally, he gave an example of Hulu testing ad choice, where viewers are given a choice of two ads to view. The findings were given a choice of ads increases unaided recall 53 – 68 and ad liking 4.3 – 4.6 (contact ad versus choice ad). Additionally, as complexity of choice ad increases, ad liking increases. It seems that consumers want to be “right” or validated in their choice of ads.

It’s a fascinating debate and Duane’s insight was an intriguing, new part of the dialogue.

Author Notes:

Jeffrey Henning

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Jeffrey Henning, IPC is a professionally certified researcher and has personally conducted over 1,400 survey research projects. Jeffrey is a member of the Insights Association and the American Association of Public Opinion Researchers. In 2012, he was the inaugural winner of the MRA’s Impact award, which “recognizes an industry professional, team or organization that has demonstrated tremendous vision, leadership, and innovation, within the past year, that has led to advances in the marketing research profession.” In 2022, the Insights Association named him an IPC Laureate. Before founding Researchscape in 2012, Jeffrey co-founded Perseus Development Corporation in 1993, which introduced the first web-survey software, and Vovici in 2006, which pioneered the enterprise-feedback management category. A 35-year veteran of the research industry, he began his career as an industry analyst for an Inc. 500 research firm.