Study Explores Better Ad Recall

An Initiative Media-Massachusetts Institute of Technology study released yesterday is digging deeper into the relationship between a highly interactive TV program and its audience.

Walking the Path: Exploring the Drivers of Expression was written by David Ernst and Stacey Lynn Koerner and four researchers from MIT. The study follows a path in studying the dynamics between advertising, media and audience engagement that began in 2002 with Survivor and continued in the spring of 2003 with the research into the American Idol 2 audience.

Ernst said Wednesday that reality shows were picked in the study's beginning phases because researchers wanted to understand the viewing dynamics that lend itself to viewer interaction and product placement. He said that in programs like Survivor and American Idol, viewers are more likely to be actively engaged during the course of the show but on the Internet, cell phones, entertainment news shows and elsewhere. While not everyone can be classified as a highly-engaged viewer of American Idol, Ernst said that the Fox show had more than its share of committed fans.



"It was almost like they couldn't get enough of the show," Ernst said.

The study found that advertising likeability matches well with reality programming. Viewers are more likely to notice advertising and product placement during reality shows and they're more likely to look favorably upon advertising and product placement during reality shows. American Idol viewers were more intent on watching most or all of the program, less likely to channel surf during commercial breaks and knew more about ads and brands.

"They became part of the show. That's not to say that viewers don't get highly involved in other genres too," Ernst said. But he said that the popularity of the American Idol brand spills over to advertisers and their messages, which more readily resonate with consumers. That's something planners and buyers should pay attention to, the study said.

"You're looking for products that have a strong brand identity and that are consistent in the message and the brand identity of your products. You want to make that connection. You want to leverage the connection with the brand and the message," Ernst said.

The study also found a better recall and involvement when viewers watch in groups, either family or friends. The study found that 18% of the people who watched the show in groups recalled specific ads, compared to 9% of those who watched shows (and ads) alone. Less than half of the viewers who watched alone "usually paid full attention" to the show, compared to 62% who watched as part of a group.

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