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The New York Times – TV Decoder

by Stuart Elliott

A study to be released on Wednesday finds that advertisements appearing in traditional media like television are still “much more likely” to have made a positive impression with consumers than ads running in digital media.

The study, called “When Advertising Works,” was conducted by Yankelovich in association with Sequent Partners. The Center for Media Design at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., provided assistance.

The study covered 16 types of media. Besides TV, the traditional kinds included billboards, magazines, newspapers, radio and movie theater commercials. The digital kinds included e-mail messages, Internet banner ads, social networking Web sites, video games and video-sharing Web sites like YouTube.

When asked what kind of an impression the ad made, 56 percent of survey respondents said traditional media ads made a positive impression, in contrast to 31 percent who said that about digital media ads. Thirteen percent reported a negative impression of traditional media ads versus 21 percent for digital media ads. Thirty-two percent said they had neither a positive nor a negative impression of traditional media ads, in contrast to 48 percent who said they had neither a good or bad impression of digital media ads.

A principal reason for those results, said J. Walker Smith, president at the Yankelovich Monitor division of Yankelovich in Atlanta, was that for ads that made an impression, consumers using traditional media were in a more positive mood and more likely to be interested in entertainment and relaxation.
By comparison, consumers using digital media were more likely to be in busy moods, seeking control or solving a problem, Mr. Smith said, and they were more likely to be by themselves. In contrast, traditional media are often watched, listened to or read by people in groups.

Although the new media may be better at helping people solve problems, which represents “a unique reason to come to digital media platforms,” he added, “when I’m tracking down information or looking for an answer or trying to compare things or searching for a link, ads are irritating to a degree not true when I’m relaxed and unwinding with TV or a magazine and thus more open to diversion.”

That may mean that “advertising will always have to work harder to make a positive impression in digital media,” he added.

Another reason for the results of the study, Mr. Smith said, is that consumers are not as used to seeing ads in digital media as they are in traditional media.

“Advertising wasn’t embedded in the new media from the start; it came along later,” he added, which may be why some consumers describe digital media ads as intrusive.

One benefit of digital media over traditional media is “that I can advertise to you and take your order at the same time,” Mr. Smith said, and such usefulness can help generate positive impressions.

The genesis of the survey was that “our clients have been telling us they’re shifting more and more of their budgets to the digital media,” Mr. Smith said, “but they feel they don’t have a handle on advertising in a digital context.”

At the same time, “we don’t quite know how to develop advertising for digital media,” he added. “There’s a lot of experimentation, and we’re probably not as good as we think.”

The differences between ads making impressions in the traditional and new media may fade over time, Mr. Smith said, as agencies become more proficient in creating digital ads and advertisers become more savvy in terms of learning what works and what does not in the new-media realm.

Another highlight of the study, according to Mr. Smith, is that ads that made an impression in traditional media were more likely to stimulate word of mouth than ads that made an impression in digital media.

That was particularly true for TV commercials and for spots in movie theaters — “when people like them,” a caveat Mr. Smith took pains to add.

That finding was somewhat counterintuitive, Mr. Smith said, because of the reputation of the new media as the best way to generate so-called buzz, or positive opinions spread by word of mouth.

Marketers may want to combine traditional and digital media to better stimulate word of mouth, he added.

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April 2021



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