Social Media Impact On Ad Engagement Might Be Counterintuitive

Creative types who are lamenting DVRs neutering their ads may have a new challenge on their hands: social media. How are they going to get millennials who are watching TV with their heads buried in Facebook and Twitter to pay more attention to their spots?

A renewed focus on audio might help. Increasing the volume is not an option with recent legislation requiring the sound be no louder than the programming. So, they will have to be clever. McDonald’s will probably need to do more than just a jingle and shot of a Big Mac, no matter how mouthwatering.



The U.S. Navy may offer some clues. In one spot, research from Time Warner’s Medialab shows that sounds from powerful waves and helicopters brought moments of increased attention within the 30 seconds.

Researchers based their conclusions on reactions during the spot’s length, tracked with biometric monitoring (factors such as increased heart rate) and eye-tracking.

“When you use audio right, it’s another way to reinforce engagement,” said Howard Shimmel, a senior vice president at Turner who was involved in the research.

He advanced the “audio snaps them back” conclusion in a presentation Thursday at the Maxxcom Global Media Collaborative that touched on the impact of social media and second-screen apps on engagement. As it turns out, while more compelling audio is a good idea, social media may actually be a friend of advertisers.

Given that millennials like to tweet and message each other about shows they are watching, it’s no surprise that the research indicates that social media use boosts engagement during the programming. The same goes with sync apps, since they are directly related to shows being viewed.

But it seems counterintuitive that ad engagement would go up too. Shimmel, however, suggested there’s a rub-off effect in viewers who pay increased attention to programming remaining more engaged during the ad breaks.

Part of the research using biometrics and eye-tracking had 18- to-34-year-olds watch 30 minutes of TBS’s “Conan” and 15 minutes of Warner Bros.’ “TMZ” -- ad pods were included. Simplifying things: those who did so with an ability to use Facebook and Twitter had higher engagement levels than those watching TV with no access. Engagement was also higher for those who could use a sync app versus those with no access to one.

Perhaps even more paradoxically, since they may chat with each other, the research indicates higher engagement among pairs watching together versus solo viewers -- including with ads. It also falls under an umbrella of social viewing. Charts show that engagement declines during ads were less severe when pairs -- with and without access to social media -- viewed together versus solo viewing.

“Inevitably, declines in engagement with the content will occur at times during the show or during ads,” according to the presentation. “Social viewing fills these gaps and maintains engagement. That should discourage tune out and channel changing.”

That’s one loud statement.

2 comments about "Social Media Impact On Ad Engagement Might Be Counterintuitive".
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  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, June 14, 2013 at 8:05 a.m.

    Could it simply be that in an on-demand world nobody demands the ads?

  2. Stephen C. Baldwin from Steve Baldwin Associates, June 17, 2013 at 2 p.m.

    I'm waiting for the first broadcast ad that deliberately mimics a key audio signal from a mobile device -- say the funny whistling sound a Galaxy makes when it receives an update -- or maybe even something older-school, like a classic Windows XP error audio signal, to fool the non-watching user into "snapping back" to attention. Hell -- even a modem connection sound would get peoples' attention -- most people remember how modems sounded. And I agree with Mr. Einstein that people aren't demanding advertising much -- in fact they're willing to lay hard money on the barrel head to avoid the annoyance.

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