ATLANTA: Ads aired during family-friendly television programming score more highly as regards generating attention and purchase intent according to a new study that comes shortly after the basis of content ratings has been questioned.

A study conducted by Nielsen for Scripps Networks Interactive and UP TV – both of which offer programming aimed at a family audience – used both attitudinal research with 2,400 respondents and a biometric study with 90 participants to reach its conclusions.

It reported that commercials running in a TV-G environment (deemed suitable for all ages) scored 27% higher among all viewers across various attributes, including interest in products, attention to brands and purchase intent.

The lift nearly doubled to 51% among viewers who said they regularly sought out TV-G content.

And the positive impact of advertising in TV-G programming was seen across all measured advertising sectors, including consumer packaged goods, retail, quick-service restaurants, automotive, clothing and alcoholic beverages.

The biometric end of the study showed that emotional engagement was 30% greater for ads appearing in TV-G rated shows, compared to TV-14 (unsuitable for children under 14).

The difference was markedly greater – 173% – when compared to TV-MA-rated shows (unsuitable for children under 17).

"I think it's fair to say that advertising in family programming makes too much business sense to ignore," observed Ron Plante, SVP/audience research and strategy at UP.

That may well be the case but an advocacy group has recently questioned the basis of the content ratings system and argued that there is an inherent conflict of interest in allowing the networks to rate their own shows.

Tim Winter, president of the Parents TV Council, pointed out that there were no TV-MA-rated shows on broadcast TV and it wasn't because some shows didn't warrant it. "The networks are financially motivated not to rate programs properly because most corporate sponsors won't advertise on MA-rated programs," he said.

He also maintained there were no TV-G rated shows on primetime and that the lines between TV-PG and TV-14 shows were becoming blurred.

"The ratings system has systemically failed to provide accurate and consistent information for its entire 20-year existence," he declared.

Data sourced from Scripps Networks Interactive, UP TV, The Guardian; additional content by Warc staff