Mediapost’s Media Daily News

by Erik Sass

A new study from TiVo and Innerscope Research provides data supporting what advertisers have long suspected: Viewers are less likely to fast-forward through emotionally engaging advertising — provided it’s able to grab them in the first few seconds.

The study of 55 national TV ads revealed that ads which scored “low” in terms of emotional engagement were 25% more likely to be skipped than those ranked “high.”

The data, presented to the Advertising Research Foundation, charted the propensity to fast-forward through an ad depending on emotional engagement on a second-by-second basis. Ads that failed to hook viewers in the critical first few seconds would be skipped almost in their entirety. Ads that were engaging throughout tended to be viewed in their entirety, while ads that started strong but became less engaging were often fast-forwarded beginning in the dull spots.

The utility of engagement as a measure of advertising effectiveness, endorsed by the ARF and other advertising groups, remains controversial.

Although the link between engagement and purchasing behavior seems straightforward (some say self-evident), the ARF and researchers have struggled to define the concept in a concrete way that allows researchers to address it with quantitative measurement tools. The TiVo/Innerscope Research study is also significant in presenting a definition of engagement and a way of measuring it.

According to the companies, their study of advertising engagement combined biometric monitoring of 40 subjects watching TV with TiVo’s StopWatch data, which tracks ad-skipping behaviors by 100,000 TiVo subscribers. Wearing biometric monitoring vests developed by Innerscope, the 40 subjects watched the same hour of live TV programming, with the same advertising, that the 100,000 members of the TiVo StopWatch panel were exposed to.

The Innerscope biometric vests monitor heart rate, breathing, sweat, and movement. The study found a high degree of correspondence between emotional engagement, as measured by these physiological phenomena, and the ad-skipping behavior of the 100,000 TiVo panelists.

The field of neuroscience has long been explored by Madison Avenue. Starcom MediaVest Group Research Chief Kate Sirkin has been experimenting with the technology as an advertising and media-testing tool 10 years ago, but the economics of the research were then too prohibitive to commercialize broadly.

Academic researchers have also been pitching various neuroscience and biometric measurement technologies to advertisers and agencies. The Center for Media Design at Ball State University has several applications. A few years ago, the ARF began exploring its application as an engagement measurement tool, working with Harvard Business School professor Jerry Zaltman as well as Innerscope Research and Sequent Partners.