Saturday, January 23, 2016

What makes TV adverts memorable: Some nuggets from psychology research

I’m currently studying a part-time MSc in Business Psychology and we have moved on to a module about ‘external communications’. Branding and advertising, in other words.

Stars of a memorable TV ad...
I've been reading a number of papers while preparing for my first essay assignment. For fun, and to spread the knowledge, I’ve pulled out 9 factoids about TV advertising that have been evidenced by psychological researchers. Spot how many of these are true for you and how many techniques are being used by the broadcasters.

TV ads are remembered more if they are followed by ‘congruent programme content’, e.g. a beer advert is followed by a scene where people drink beer. (Furnham et al 2002)

However, TV ads are remembered less if they follow ‘congruent programme content’. (Furnham et al 2002) This means smart script writers would want to know what ads are going where to put all their congruent scenes in the right place. You want your scene in a pub after the beer advert, not before.

People are more likely to remember longer adverts than shorter ones. (Pieters & Bijmolt, 1997)

Stick too many adverts together and it’s more likely none of them will be remembered particularly well. Increasing the number of ads in a block from 4 to 5 begins to negatively impact memory. (Pieters & Bijmolt, 1997)

However, brand recognition afterwards is not reduced by having more adverts. People might not be able to consciously recall the advert, but the brand name is lurking in their brain somewhere! They will recognise it if they are shown it later. (Brown & Rothschild, 1993)

Don’t bother running your ads in the middle of commercial breaks. People tend to remember the first and last adverts in a sequence. (Terry, 2005) This is true even if they are the exact same adverts, just shown in a different order.

People are also more likely to remember adverts that appear in the earlier commercial breaks in a programme, than in ones later on. (Terry, 2005)

Leaving very short gaps between TV ads makes them easier to remember. (Pieters & Bijmolt, 1997) This one is clearly being used on a lot of channels these days. The break in programming catches our attention as viewers. Probably.

The BBC would make a killing if it could flog space in the middle of East Enders. Advertising content placed in ‘happy’ programmes was not remembered as well as in ‘unhappy’ content. (Furnham et al 2002) The effect of an unhappy programme is magnified if the advert is violent and/or offensive. (We are lovely people, aren’t we? Remembering violent adverts in miserable programmes.)


  • Brown & Rothschild (1993) "Reassessing the Impact of Television Advertising Clutter," Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 20
  • Furnham, Bergland & Gunter (2002) "Memory for Television Advertisements as a Function of Advertisement–Programme Congruity." Applied Cognitive Psychology 16
  • Pieters & Bijmolt (1997) "Consumer Memory for Television Advertising: A Field Study of Duration,Serial Position, and Competition Effects." Journal of Consumer Research. Vol. 23
  • Terry (2005) "Serial Position Effects in Recall of Television Commercials." The Journal of General Psychology, 132(2)

No comments:

Post a Comment