Viewers pay more attention to online video ads than to traditional TV commercials and also recall them better, according to new research that utilized Affectiva's facial tracking algorithms and second-by-second biometric modeling of cognition, excitement and stress levels.
The research measured the reactions of 48 viewers watching one hour of programming in Interpublic Group's West Coast IPG Media Lab.
Conducted by the Media Lab during March in conjunction with video ad network YuMe, the study determined that on average, online viewers pay more attention to the screen than do traditional TV viewers -- and the greater attention levels carry over to advertising.
Online video ads received 18.3% more viewer attention in the study than TV commercials -- a much higher disparity than the 8.5% greater viewer attention garnered by online video content over TV content.
This was largely due to the finding that when transitioning from program content to ads, the attention of TV viewers dropped off three times faster than that of online viewers.
While fast-forwarded ads, such as those recorded on a DVR, were partly to blame, IPG and YuMe found a much larger cause to be "the familiar cadence of TV content." Conversely, the study found that "systemic disruption" caused by online video's "unpredictable ad cadence and forced, short bursts of video ads (rather than predictable ad pods) appears to help decrease ad avoidance behaviors without causing consumer backlash..."
In fact, DVR users were found to pay higher-than-normal attention to commercials because they were concentrating on skipping them -- but their later recall was actually lower. "DVR users were 38% less likely to correctly recall the brand for any TV ad they saw, aided or unaided, compared to non-DVR users," the study found.
For TV viewers overall, paying attention during commercials had no effect on whether they could or could not remember them or recall them unaided. And those who recalled ads when aided actually had below-average attention scores. But online viewers who paid attention to ads later recalled them, with online video ad recall twice as high as TV ad recall -- "offering proof that recall and attention correlate," according to IPG and YuMe.
Both TV and online video content had plenty of competition from other media during the study, most notably smartphones. The 48 viewers studied had been surveyed a week earlier to determine how they normally watch TV, then told to bring with them what they needed to recreate their "normal" TV viewing experience.
They showed up at the Media Lab not only with phones, but with laptops, games, magazines, food, makeup and even a guitar, IPG and YuMe said. Other predetermined distractions were also available -- from DVRs stocked with participants' favorite shows to their own email and IM programs.
All these off-screen distractions hurt attention levels more during advertising than during program content. As the study summary put it: "If given the chance to avoid ads, most people will."
Yet while distractions affected both online and regular TV viewing, with over half of video viewers said to have had a second screen active during commercials, the distractions hurt TV to a larger extent -- with 62% of TV ads avoided while they played, compared with 45% of online video ads. Also, 17.5% of TV ads were fast-forwarded.
"DVRs hurt TV advertising in a way that has not yet come to online video," according to the research summary. "Compared to TV, online video is measurably better at delivering ads that are impossible to skip technologically and impractical to skip behaviorally."
A final conclusion: "normal ratings data is not nearly complex enough to measure how chaotic and highly individualized media consumption is."