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…