In this “deep dive” session, building on the How Advertising Works Today presentation on the Conference stage, Duane Varan presented the findings from a new original ARF research project.
Duane stated that the issue of context effects has grown in importance, especially in light of programmatic buying which often discounts such effects. Further, Duane thinks that industry research has limited utility and that the academic literature on this subject is weak.
This lack of systematic research, the inconsistent body of literature and the industry’s failure to analyze the reasons for these differences has made reaching conclusions difficult and calls for more research.
Research questions considered in this new study by Media Science:
- Are certain emotional states (as elicited by content) better or worse for the ads that follow?
- Do ads benefit from being aligned with the emotional drivers of the context they are placed in?
Phase 1 examined emotional transfer effects. Participants were exposed to program clips eliciting specific emotions (neutral, humor, thinking, sadness, fear, excitement, surprise).
Each clip was then followed by one of 7 rotated ads:
This experiment confirmed that there is contextual transfer: ad perceptions are likely to be affected by the content. However, the impact may, or may not be positive. For example, in this study ads following humor were liked more but recalled less.
Phase 2 examined emotional alignment effects. Participants were exposed to ads with either an emotionally aligned or a misaligned context. The study thus explored, for example, what is the impact of a funny program on a funny ad compared with an ad that was not funny?
The experiment confirmed that alignment can boost the impact of a commercial, but it challenges “the universal alignment argument.” The study found that sentimental, storytelling ads in similar programs benefitted from alignment. In contrast, in this study, funny commercials in funny programs failed to benefit from the alignment.
Duane reminded the audience that additional research is needed. He pointed out that this is a complex issue with a lot of variability. Alignment does work, but the effects are specific and vary considerably by program/ad content match.