Research confirming the somewhat obvious – ads in context work

June 4, 2010 by Dave Haynes

Is running advertising that is contextually relevant a true science, or just a way of analyzing the obvious?

There was a forum in New York yesterday that had media companies presenting new approaches to advertising audience targeting.

MediaPost reports:

Context was king during a meeting of The Collaborative Alliance in New York Thursday, where companies ranging from Turner Broadcasting to Nielsen Co. presented new approaches to audience targeting that could make the mass medium of television as discrete and contextually relevant as online media. The most potentially controversial approach presented during the meeting, which is hosted periodically by Havas’ MPG unit, came from Turner, whose top researchers gave an update of their “TV In Context” initiative that might rile some consumer advocates.

The initiative embeds or juxtaposes TV advertising messages into, or adjacent to television content that Turner’s researchers say creates “unconscious” behavioral effects, motivating consumers to recall and even purchase brands at higher levels than advertising they are cognitively aware of.

While likely highly effective, the approach may remind consumer advocates about the kind of controversial subliminal advertising practices sparked by media critic Vance Packard’s book “The Hidden Persuaders” during the 1950s and 1960s.

The Turner executives, including Chief Research Officer Jack Wakshlag, and Stacey Schulman, noted that the approach was based on new research into brain theory developed by neuroscientists, especially the work of InnerScope Founder Dr. Carl Marci, who consulted with Turner.

Wakshlag described the approach as a “priming” effect that causes consumers to have unconscious, “emotional” responses to advertising based on the emotional effects of the programming content – usually movies – that Turner places the ads in.

Turner’s Schulman gave an example of a consumer shopping for wine in a retail store playing French music in the background, leading the person to unconsciously select a bottle of French wine.

What? Subliminal advertising??? Isn’t good creative about generating an emotional response? Like desire? This is not embedding messages inside ads. This is doing a better job with ads.

Anyway, I write this because the discussion and research about ads in context certainly has relevance to digital out of home and in-store digital media.

Operationally, Schulman said the system works by “meta tagging” all of the most contextually relevant content in the programming, mostly movies, available in the TV In Context initiative, and matching it to products or brands that are mostly likely to benefit from an emotional connection to it.

In one example, Schulman showed a clip of a sensational car chase and crash from the feature film “The Bourne Supremacy,” which seamlessly segued into a commercial for the OnStar auto safety service.

Schulman said the TV In Context initiative has proven to generate “lift” in purchase intent both on a cognitive and a non-cognitive level, and said Turner is exploring some new approaches that it is ready to introduce to the advertising marketplace, including one dubbed, “Brands In Context.”

So at least by extension, if you can influence purchase intent with good, targeted creative while people are on a sofa, consider the possibilities when the targeted.c contextual message is IN the retail environment.

She said the Brands In Context deals would place brand names and logos directly on to the set of TV shows produced by Turner, including 10-second programming interstitials that directly tie the brand to the programming content.

“It’s not quite a product placement,” she said, adding, “That’s where TV In Context is going in the next year.”

Leave a comment