advertising, researching

Implicit vs Explicit Memory

this ad for Virgin Trains nearly didn’t get made.  which would have been a great shame.  it nearly didn’t get made because its the kind of ad that fails pretesting with consumers.  it fails because when we are asked directly about something we recall explicit not implicit memories.  the theory goes like this…

How_stimulus_is_recalled_one_3our initial gut feel or reaction to a stimulus is stored implicitly, once we consciously process that stimulus – ie think about it – we form an explicit memory of that stimulus.  when we are asked to articulate our perceptions of something (eg an ad) its our explicit memory that we recall.  because of this conscious processing it’s open to counter argument – something Virgin Trains wanted to avoid coming out of a wave of negative publicity.  they couldn’t attempt to change people’s heads without first changing their hearts.

after consumers were talked thru the script, they recalled their explicit perceptions of Virgin Trains, which were inherently negative.  they couldn’t articulate their gut feel – ie their implicit recall, which duckfoot were able to prove was very positive.  this is how they did it…


the response to part 3 was – as expected – negative.  and the ad may have been killed there and then.  but by repeating part 1 duckfoot were able to identify the implicit memory of the ad, and its affect on the perceptions of Virgin Trains…  in theory 1 and 4 should be the same, but they weren’t.  the stimulus had fundamentally changed the subjects’ implicit perceptions of Virgin – for the better.  and so the ad got made.  and we all got to see it.  which is nice.

it’s also worth noting that back in 1977, Hasher, Goldstein, & Toppino showed how implicit memory also leads to the illusion-of-truth effect; which suggests that subjects are more likely to rate as true statements that they have already heard, regardless of how true they are.

in short, the very act of saying something in an ad and having consumers implicitly hear it is enough to lead a consumer to recall that statement as true.  so a medium like TV, which is often processed with low involvement and therefore stored straight to implicit memory, is great at making viewers think something is true, whether it is or not!

advertising, planning, researching

Some Engaging TV Research

Thinkbox_engagement ethnographic observation in 22 homes formed the basis of the first phase of thinkbox’s Engagement Study, which when followed by interviews established six key influences on the degree to which audiences engage with TV ads.  in collaboration with ACB Research, have established an ‘engagement index’ based on the following factors:

Ad Exposure

…all of which determine the extent to which the content of an ad is processed, and to what degree it is therefore recalled to the brand engram (and ultimately – although this will be investigated at a later stage in the Payback Study – to what extent it influences purchase intention).

some of the key findings from the research were that:

  • TV is central to people’s lives, and the majority of viewing remains communal; 70% of viewing time was typical of "our time" as opposed to "in-between time" or "my time"
  • ‘engagement’ can be defined in a range of ways, some of the most observable being strong interactions like playing ‘guess the ad’ to responding to music cues
  • overall, around 17% of viewing could be typified as ‘strong’, 51% as medium (taking notice in some way), with 32% of viewing showing no observable response or interaction
  • negative engagement does not equal bad engagement – the Frosties ad (below) being a prime example of an ad that was hated but which got the product discussed (in not a necessarily negative way) as a result
  • attention is not always vital – eating increased the engagement index
  • shared engagement is powerful, and both the extent to which an ad is implicitly recalled as well as emotionally engaged with is re-enforced by sharing the experience with others
  • the power of emotion; ‘affective’, ‘cognitive’ and ‘sensory’ ads have higher recall indexes
  • less than 10% of ad breaks are affected by some form of ad-avoidance
  • 5% of commercial breaks were viewed with a laptop present and being used in the room

here’s that Frosties ad:

the first phase was then followed by 3,000 online surveys, which formed the basis for the creation of five segments:

  • ‘Ad Enthusiasts’ (30%) – love ads and TV generally; they have higher than average recall of ads but less ‘favourability’ and purchase intent
  • ‘TV is my friend’ (15%) – TV viewed for companionship, generally live and watch TV alone; heavy users of TV, but advertising has less affect on favourability compared to other segments
  • ‘Ad-averse’ (18%) – TV isn’t important or relevant in their lives; despite the name, ad exposure was seen to be more likely to affect favourability / purchase intent
  • ‘Creative Connoisseurs’ (19%) – appreciate quality of programmes and ads; actually showed the lowest recall generally
  • ‘Thank you for the Music’ (18%) – TV isn’t that important, but they take in and recall more readily slogans and tunes; much more likely to be partially attentive – brand recognition didn’t equate into an effect on favourability or purchase intent

what matters now of course is what we are able to do with the research.  getting it onto touchpoints will be a great first step, allowing planners to explore these audiences in the context of other TV info as well as other media.  but ultimately the extent to which planners and buyers distribute spots amongst programmes – and indeed within the ecology of the break – will depend as much on the current context of the TV trading model as it will new news about how we can segment different audiences subject to how they engage with the nation’s favourite pastime.

that said, what this thinkbox initiative does comprehensively is add much-needed ammunition to the why spend on TV? debate.  TV advertising revenues are decreasing because of fragmentation and the need of marketeers to fund internet activity on a media schedule.  but – let’s be honest – TV is also suffering because it’s become less fashionable for TV to be the answer.  we all believe TV advertising works, all thinkbox have to do is prove it…

advertising, engaging, planning

Thinking Inside the Box

Thinkbox_dispatcheslast Friday saw tv marketing body thinkbox present findings from it’s Engagement Study, a project to understand how different audiences interact with TV and as a result how advertisers can best use TV to reach those audiences.

interestingly the first question they needed to address is what is engagement?  thinkbox turned to a definition coined by their equivelant body in the States… that "engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context",  which despite being very TV advertising focusses, seems as good a definition as any.

learnings were then presented from the project, including a TV audience segmentation the study has identified, as well as some extreme types of behaviours demonstrated across the segments.  I’ve outlined the findings of the research in a seperate post here.

a brilliant presentation by Dr Ali Good from duckfoot research then discussed explicit vs implicit memory, and how media and advertising research is great at measuring the former but not so good at the latter…  so he took the audience thru a technique for exploring implicit memory, via a great case study for Virgin Trains’ Return of the Train ad.

the last aspect of the morning was a discussion led by Sue Unerman of Mediacom on what all this research means for advertising and specifically media planning.  ten questions ranged from "is it better to be noticed or ignored?" to "are we fiddling while Rome burns?", taking in everything from bemoaning the disapearance of jingles to the role of media vs creative planning strategies on the way.


The Black Box Fallacy

Black_box there’s a very compelling theory that at some point all our media will be accessed through a single black box.  a box that will deliver our TV, gaming, email, movies and web surfing all to one (or multiple) screens through a single access point.

it’s very compelling because it sits so neatly with our concept of convergence; with the idea that technology will be developed (and indeed already exists) to deliver a range of content to our TV screen.  the much-anticipated PS3 not only does games, but does HD DVD and can wirelessly access the internet to boot.  Sony doing internet, Microsoft doing TV etc.  convergence right?


the more you think about it the more you realise that there probably isn’t going to be mainstream adoption of a little (or big) black box.  firstly, there’s no historic evidence for it; as Henry Jenkins notes in his book Convergence Culture;

"I am seeing more and more black boxes.  there are my VCR, my digital cable box, my DVD player, my digital recorder, my sound system, and my two games systems, not to mention a hug mound of videotapes, DVDs and CDs, game cartridges and controllers, sitting atop, laying alongside, toppling over the edge of my television system"

he’s not alone.  we have all experienced not the convergence but the proliferation of black boxes.  even when a device can do multiple tasks, it doesn’t necessarily replace a separate device dedicated solely to that task.

but the second reason why the black box theory is a fallacy is that context in which we consume stuff changes.  my wants and needs as I type this were very different from my wants and needs last night when I was watching a movie.  Jenkins quotes a Cheskin Research report * as pointing out that:

"The old idea of convergence was that all devices would converge into one central device that did everything for you … What we are now seeing is the hardware diverging while the content converges

… Your email needs and expectations are different whether you’re at home, work, school, commuting, the airport etc., and these different devices are designed to suit your needs for accessing content depending on where you are – your situated context"

"Designing Digital Experiences for Youth", Market Insights Series, Fall 2002 pp. 8-9

there’s a fundamental difference between access (hardware) and content, and where there is evidence for convergence is with the latter…

the above is from the Animatrix.  one imagined world; with a multitude of different content; but all designed to be accessed differently across different channels; movie’s at cinemas, DVDs at home, MMOG via PC.  its a big early commercial example of what Jenkins has termed Transmedia storytelling, Faris Yakob  wrote a great post about it here.

it is content that converging.  so that we can access it whenever we like on whatever terms we choose.  its for this reason – its worth noting – that we have seen technological convergence outside the home in the form of the mobile phone (which is also a camera and MP3 player and soon TV too)…  we have a luxury of choice inside our homes – PC for working, TV for movies – that we don’t have outside.  hardware convergence happened on phones because the contextual need for the convenience of one device, was more important that the contextual need for different devices to be designed for individual tasks.

of course there will be some hardware convergence, but there is unlikely to be a killer-ap black box adopted by the mainstream.  the fact that technology exists is no reason for it to be adopted.  we stubbornly continue to allow human context to determine how we adopt and use technology.  good job too.

whats going to be fun is to see to what extent commercial advertisers use transmedia storytelling.  at the moment a campaign idea tends to be executed across different channels.  there’s little consideration given to how what is produced can be contextualised from the off.  and there’s massive opportunity for the advertisers – and indeed the agencies – that learn how to do this best first.