Competitive Clutter in Network Television Advertising: Current Levels and Advertiser Responses

Robert J Kent

Consumers often encounter ads for directly competing brands within television programs. For example, viewers might encounter ads for three pain relievers or four similar import autos during an hour of network TV. Research findings suggest that this competitive clutter makes it difficult for viewers to remember which brands were advertised and what the ads communicated about each brand (cf, Keller, 1987, 1991; Kent and Allen, 1993, 1994).

Advertisers are increasingly concerned that competitive clutter harms the effectiveness of television ads (Lipman, 1992; Mandese, 1991). However, few analyses of competitive overlap in television programming are available, and better knowledge of strategic responses to competitive clutter is needed. Kent (1993) assessed competitive clutter levels by network and daypart in a sample of 1991 network television advertising. The findings showed that up to 40% of ads aired in hours with competitive advertising. Moreover, the competitive clutter level was higher in prime time versus daytime, although many fewer ads were shown.