The Secret of Television's Success: Emotional Content or Rational Information? After Fifty Years
the Debate Continues

Robert G. Heath

School of Management, University of Bath

Insights from

Horst Stipp



The arrival of television advertising in 1955 changed the world of advertising more than anything before or since. For the first time, people were able to see moving images and hear sound in their own living rooms. And, for the first time, advertisers were able not just to communicate but to entertain. In a very short period, it became clear that those companies that used television to advertise their products were running away with market share.

The earliest theories of how television advertising worked derived from 50 years of print advertising and saw no mystery at all in it. From as far back as the 1920s, the belief was that advertising was about delivering a persuasive message. And, it was assumed, television advertising—by getting higher levels of attention—would enhance message communication and increase recall and persuasion.