Emotional engagement: how TV builds brands at low attention

Robert Heath

The consumer love affair with TV and its advertising reached its peak some years ago. Research more than a decade ago showed two-thirds of viewers doing some other activity when watching television, up to 40% leaving the room when the advertising break came on, and 70% playing ads fast-forward in previously recorded material; more recent research puts this last figure at 100%. Yet, in their analysis of over 1,000 IPA Advertising Effectiveness Awards papers, Binet and Field found that “there is little evidence to support the widespread assumption that TV (advertising) is becoming less effective. In fact, TV effectiveness might be increasing” (1).

Research I carried out in 2005 with Pam Hyder complicates the issue further (2). In two case studies of emotive TV advertising, we found – contrary to conventional thinking – that the campaigns worked slightly better when people did not recall them. How do we explain these contradictions? A first step might be to get a better understanding of exactly how TV advertising engages with consumers and influences them.