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Difference between the perception of TV commercials and print ads

There has always been talk of how new forms of media are driving out the old ones. Interactive media will assume the position of televised media, as it involves the viewer to a much greater degree than watching TV does. When television first arrived, it was seen as more effective than radio, given that it provided an extra dimension, namely image. And radio, in turn, is considered more effective than print media. But does that actually apply to advertisements as well?

Contrary to this idea, studies have shown from early on that watching a TV commercial is a passive activity, whereas looking at a print ad is active. Television involves the person to a very small degree. This means that while watching a TV ad, the person gets few spontaneous ideas where he or she relates the content of the commercial to his or her own life.

One reason for this lies in the fact that when reading a text, you control your own time and attention – the reader can decide for him- or herself when to turn a page and what to focus on. With television, there is no such control. Furthermore, upon the first viewing, the watcher has no idea how interesting the commercial might prove, and hence he or she has a passive wait-and-see attitude.

This topic has also been studied by means of neuropsychological methods. Examination of brain waves confirms that the main electrical brain response depends more on the type of media (whether it’s a print ad or TV commercial) than on the content of TV ads. It turns out that looking at a print ad generates rapid brain waves, whereas watching a TV commercial produces slow brain waves and is therefore a passive activity.

A visual observation of brain waves also shows that the wave amplitude with print ads is consistently about five times larger than that associated with TV commercials. The higher waves generated by print ads may be explained by the fact that the person looking at the print ad must make an effort to adapt his or her eyes to a nearby stimulus (image). In addition, a tension is formed in the neck muscles, as the viewer turns his or her head and tilts it slightly forward. Therefore, it might be just the strain necessary for reading in general.

Nevertheless, studies of brain waves indicate that in case of a print ad, the viewer makes an effort to learn something from the ad. With a TV commercial, on the other hand, the viewer is passive – if the commercial communicates something to him or her, it’s all well and good, but if it fails to do so, there’s no problem either. The commercial ends and the viewer will make no further effort to re-watch it with double the attention (as he or she would in case of a print ad).

Due to this fundamentally different way of viewing, the behavior of people viewing TV commercials and print ads is slightly different as well. If TV audience encounters something or somebody they have previously seen on TV (i.e. have passively let play out before their eyes), they experience a moment of surprise: “A-ha! I have seen this before!” This is the first time they have an active response to the thing in question. As a TV audience, they haven’t had a chance to reflect on what they saw, and hence this outburst of response is vague and formless, spontaneous and often seemingly immature. Thus, it can be said that upon a later encounter with what was seen on television, the TV audience is more active (albeit clumsier) and more experience-oriented.

The viewers of a print ad, on the other hand, have had time to ponder over what they saw and develop their own opinion. Should they then have a real-life encounter with what they saw in the ad, they already have a prepared and “mature” answer. At the same time, they haven’t received all of the pieces of information that the TV audience got, and hence there are many aspects of the thing/person seen in the ad that they are not aware of and do not respond to. Accordingly, the viewers of print ads have a narrower and more specific attitude: they either respond in a deliberate manner or do not respond at all. Upon later contact, they are more passive, more discriminating, more mature and more oriented to information/message.

Although researchers have tried to disprove the claim that watching TV is always a low involvement activity, they haven’t succeeded. It is doubtful whether there is any systematic processing of the ad by the viewer. TV commercials do not sufficiently motivate the viewers to pay the commercial enough attention to be able to become convinced by it. Consequently, if TV ads have an effect at all, it is mainly subconscious.

Nevertheless, it cannot be said that a low level of involvement in 100% negative. TV commercials still work – in the year 2000, the average American saw 95 TV commercials a day; in 2010, about an hour’s worth of TV ads and promotions was “consumed” each day. There are various rational justifications for this (e.g. reaching a broad audience at a relatively low price). At the same time, it has been argued that the low involvement level of TV commercials can even be advantageous for the advertisers. The reasons for this are as follows:

1. Psychological experiments have demonstrated that an emotion is communicated more effectively when less attention is paid to the ad, since a low attention level prevents the development of counterarguments. Hence, TV commercials are more successful at imparting an emotional content to the viewers.

2. Neurological studies have found that the most effective ads are those that appeal to our irrational impulses, such as emotions and sex drive. These ads have an effect on our subconscious even while we’re in a passive state in front of the TV. Therefore, emotions are important and the potent ability of TV commercials to (inconspicuously) communicate emotions is the key factor behind the success of this medium.

3. And finally – if the viewers pay less attention to an ad, they don’t process it as thoroughly and can watch the ad for a longer time without becoming frustrated and bored by it.

To sum up, the way TV commercials and print ads are perceived is remarkably different, and that also goes for the viewer who receives these ads either consciously or subconsciously. A TV ad does not involve or teach the viewer; however, it cunningly uses emotions to work it influence 🙂

When tempted to choose bigger advertising volume over a more expensive copy

Every marketer has faced the dilemma of how exactly to allocate the money intended for the advertising budget. How to find the optimum balance between two items of expenditure – whether to invest more in the (better-quality, more convincing, more appealing) copy, or increase the volume, to make sure that the message sinks in?

The bigger the advertising volume, the larger the sales – is that always the case?

To find out the answer, ads for packaged commodities have been tested. A copy that has failed to generate the anticipated sales is shown to the target group in different volumes. The aim of the test is to determine if the advertising volume affects sales. Or more precisely, is it true that the more the advertising volume is increased, the bigger the improvement in sales?

The concise answer is that there is no such unequivocal relation. If the sales don’t improve after the ad is aired, the problem lies somewhere else and a more vigorous pounding won’t save the day. Even if the advertising volume is tripled, there is no increased likelihood of an improved sales volume.

Perhaps, then, the sales depend on the competitors’ advertising volume and whether or not it can be surpassed? Comparison with the competitors has not indicated such a connection either. Increased advertising volume is not predictive of improved sales. Advertising is important, of course, but only to a certain extent. The fulfillment of sales goals cannot be guaranteed with an increased volume; rather, a correction needs to be made somewhere else – in brand or copy strategy, media strategy, of the product category in general.

Small brands need volume

However, it can work in one exceptional case. Namely, with new, unfamiliar products that need to enter the consumers’ field of vision. These are small new brands that are characterized by a lower-than-average (assisted and spontaneous) profile and weak brand image. As long as they are nobodies to the consumer, a loud media entrance will certainly improve their current poor sales.

Another feature of these brands is their goal to increase penetration (i.e. the number of people who buy the brand’s product at least once). This makes sense, as a small consumer base is typical of new small brands of little renown. Accordingly, reliable advertising tests confirm from several different perspectives that the only ones who can benefit from an increased advertising volume are brands that are little known to the consumers.

More penetration for the small, higher purchase frequency for the big

Unlike large brands, a small brand can occupy a new market by means of advertising. Small, little-known brands aim to increase consumer penetration and attract new clients, whereas a major brand can no longer accomplish that. Its penetration ceiling has already been met.

A big brand benefits the most from advertising if it manages to increase purchase frequency among the existing loyal users. Or if it maintains its current market share, even if the sales volume does not increase substantially. (Let this be of solace to all marketers of major packaged food and commodity brands who have had to witness stagnation in penetration numbers, although their marketing activities have been nothing short of exemplary.)

The advertising techniques and expectations of big and small brands should differ accordingly. A small brand can target its current non-consumers and convince them to prefer this particular brand over the competitors. A major brand, on the other hand, should appeal to all of its existing users and help them find reasons to buy this brand more often.

Don’t compromise on the copy to increase advertising volume

Studies have shown that the content of the copy is even more important for new and little-known brands than it is to major ones. First impressions matter also in the world of brands, determining whether or not there will be subsequent sales. This is paradoxical, because although small brands usually have a very narrow marketing budget, they in particular should invest equally in the copy and in spreading it as widely as possible.

With major brands, on the other hand, the question cannot even arise. It makes sense to invest in a good-quality copy right away; otherwise the flaws of the copy will be impeding the attainment of the brand’s goals during the entire airing period. These flaws cannot be compensated with an increased volume.

13 facts you should be aware of when creating an ad for seniors

Next, a brief overview of some of the features common to the broad age group of seniors.

1. Seniors are not as aware of the choices available in the market as younger people are, except with regard to health products. Seals of quality, ingredient lists in fine print, the advantages and particular features of competing products – older people have a poorer understanding of such details than younger ones, at least when it comes to foodstuff.

2. Seniors take longer to process information, their pace is lower than young people’s. However, at least up to their 80th year, people’s ability to process information remains unchanged. Furthermore, seniors desire more information, because they have time to read it.

3. Seniors are more cautious about purchase-related decisions<, because they are more afraid of making a mistake and choosing a wrong product. 4. Dependence and reliance on the mass media increases with age. However, television and radio become the main sources of information, pushing newspapers and magazines to the background.

5. When targeting an ad to the seniors, their impaired hearing and eyesight should be taken into account. This affects the effectiveness of print ads the most, but also that of radio and TV commercials.

6. Seniors tend to be more subjective and judgmental than young people. Several studies have shown that younger and older adults have different ways of processing information when it comes to emotions. Seniors rate ads more subjectively and emotionally, on the basis of pre-existing value judgments and earlier experience. Young people, on the other hand, are more objective appraisers, relying more on detailed and fact-based information processing. This difference in the way information is processed influences quite a few things, including the type and amount of the information remembered. When asking seniors in a survey to name any recent advertisements they can remember, they name just a few – those that created some emotion in them.

7. Seniors know how to avoid negative emotions. On the one hand, young and old people’s different way of processing information is attributed to the aging cognitive system and impaired memory of the latter. On the other hand, seniors emphasize personal values and experience more than younger people, and thanks to their maturity are able to behave in a manner that ensures as many positive emotions as possible. They can draw clear connections for themselves between the occurrence of an event and the emotion it leads to. That way, they are able to avoid negative emotions and situations which give rise to them even before they occur. Advertising messages that involve negative emotions tend to be avoided and more easily forgotten.

8. The attitude of the seniors is influenced by the sense that time is limited. Seniors know that the time that is left to them is limited. As a result, older people are more likely to connect to processes that involve as little negative emotion as possible. They have oriented their existence and activities to the present moment, trying to find satisfaction in everything they can experience and enjoy right now.

9. In general, seniors remember less of the content of the ad than younger consumers do, except when the content is specifically made “older consumer friendly”.

10. Seniors remember and favor an emotional advertising message better than a rational one. Studies have shown that as people get older, their wish to receive emotional information instead of fact-based one grows. As mentioned before: unlike young people, seniors are not concerned with planning a long-term future and obtaining new information for that purpose. New acquaintances, as contacts potentially useful in the future, are also of little importance in their lives. In their social interaction, older adults are more committed to intimacy and their loved ones, communication with whom is known to be rewarding. Hence – young people tend to prefer rational reasons for buying a product, whereas older ones favor messages that evoke positive emotions and mental images.

11. Seniors prefer and have a better memory of ads that are presented as a way of avoiding negative emotions. This certainly doesn’t mean that negative emotional messages that generate anger, fear or sadness in the receiver of the advertisement would be suited to seniors. On the contrary, seniors favor ads that show them how to avoid experiencing such negative emotions.

12. Dividing seniors into different groups on the basis of chronological age is not very useful for determining differences in behavior and values. Instead, rely on perceived age. Perceived age is related to the daily way of life of the seniors and provides hints as to the manner they should be approached in marketing.

13. There is no reason to be afraid of them or consider them a particularly vulnerable target group. Is it OK to frighten a granny? It has been found that it is quite alright – just as with young people. If the ad has been fittingly designed and tested, the results are not only beneficial to the seniors and the advertiser, but the process of watching the ad itself provides positive energy to the viewer.

Although the listed characteristics apply to the senior age group as a whole, it is important to keep in mind that this target group is heterogeneous and constantly evolving. Attitudes, values and habits depend on the particular generation that has currently reached that age.