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Media Measurement Future of TV Addressable TV

Neuroscience confirms the power of addressable TV for brands

By Ian Darby, journalist

January 11, 2023 | 7 min read

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Addressable ads produce greater brain activation in networks related to attention, emotion, reward and memory.

Brain Scan Image

Attracting strong levels of attention and action can be challenging for brands

Commercial noise is all around us. Pressure on people’s attention has never been more intense, and the debate about the effectiveness of advertising is reaching new levels given that individuals can be exposed to thousands of ad impressions each day across many media touchpoints.

Attracting strong levels of attention and action can be challenging for brands within this context, which means there’s a greater focus than ever on brands working smarter to make a lasting impression on their ideal customers.

Within this debate, it’s worth noting that addressable TV advertising delivers powerful results for advertisers in terms of brand awareness, consideration, online activity, and sales.

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Research from Finecast, a leading addressable TV company, reveals that viewers pay 20% more active attention to ads on addressable platforms than they do to those on linear TV. The findings also show that interest in these ads doesn’t decline with increasing ad length, and viewers are less likely to be distracted than when they are watching traditional TV advertising.

To explore the impact of addressable TV on viewers in greater detail, Finecast partnered with University College London (UCL), to run a program of new research. This involved two experiments that reveal important results for brands in terms of the effect of addressable advertising on people’s brains, especially when it comes down to attention, emotion, reward, and memory.

Harry Harcus, UK managing director at Finecast says: “The outcomes of the study were impressive and have significant implications for the media industry. They shed light on why addressable TV campaigns continually achieve substantial results for clients, and they provide further evidence that these campaigns deliver a strategic advantage to brands who include this technology in their budgets.”

Into the human laboratory

The first test took place in the UCL lab with 24 participants. Each had their brain activity recorded by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) – which measures brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow – while watching TV shows with advertisements that were either related to their interests (addressable) or not. This first experiment studied what (if any) cognitive and neurological mechanisms were activated by addressable content.

A second experiment was conducted with 200 pre-screened participants online. These people were shown the same content as in the first experiment, then their memory and recall for addressable content was measured using an online behavioral survey to determine the impact of addressable and non-addressable ads.

But what did the tests discover? First, addressable ads have a greater impact than non-addressable ads across four key brain networks relating to attention, emotion, reward, and memory. Samantha Lister, head of marketing sciences at Finecast adds further encouraging news for brands: “Interestingly, addressable ads provoke a stronger response than non-addressable ads, whether the participant chooses the program or if they were watching a program that is randomly selected for them. This suggests addressability wins across all formats of TV viewing including over-the-top (OTT) and linear.

More significantly, however, the scans revealed markedly greater attention-related activity for addressable ads versus non-addressable ads, which indicates that the more relevant an ad is to the viewer, the more attention they give to it.

Addressable TV’s emotional connection

Addressable ads were also found to pack a great emotional punch. When comparing activity in the amygdala (the area of the brain related to emotion), the uplift in activity was greater during addressable ads with brain activity being closer to levels observed during the TV shows themselves.

Findings also show that addressable TV ads have an advantage in terms of boosting the sense of reward people feel when watching them above non-addressable ones. And, importantly, they have a stronger effect on memory – with a minimal drop in memory-related activity relative to TV show levels during addressable ads, compared to a substantial drop in memory-related activity during non-addressable ads.

The second test focused on whether these observed brain activations would lead to measurable increases in participants’ memory and recall of addressable content. The results revealed that participants reported liking addressable ads much more than non-addressable ads across all four ad categories used in the experiment (auto, travel, pets, gaming).

Addressable TV advertising was also found to have a profound impact in terms of recall – participants’ ability to correctly remember these commercials was 10% higher than for non-addressable content. In addition, participants were able to accurately recall addressable content 1.7% faster, indicating more confidence in their reactions to addressable ads.

Investigating further, based on factors such as context and age, the study found that when people choose a TV show for themselves, they generally remember addressable content better. But also, when participants were shown a randomly selected program, memory for addressable content is consistently better than for non-addressable content and is relatively stable across age.

The battle for attention

It’s clear that within the battle for consumer attention, relevant, addressable TV advertising can make a strong impact. The results of this research highlight that this is because relevant ads are more emotionally engaging, elicit more reward activity in the brain, and are encoded into memory more effectively.

This is important for advertisers because, with addressable TV, they can have faith that the targeting will help you define and reach your target audience. They can also take heart from the fact that, once the creative is in front of the ideal customer, it will have the greatest possible impact.

Harcus concludes:” Time and again, TV has been rated as the most trusted advertising medium, and research continually demonstrates that addressable ads draw more attention and are more memorable than non-addressable ads. It’s no wonder, then, that advertisers consistently achieve uplifts in brand metrics and KPIs from their campaigns, not to mention cost-effective incremental reach above and beyond traditional linear TV advertising.”

To find out more about the research, click here.

Media Measurement Future of TV Addressable TV

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Finecast is a leading addressable TV company which enables advertisers to precision target audiences in on demand, linear and live streaming TV environments.

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