What People Are Really Looking At During TV Ad Breaks

What People Are Really Looking At During TV Ad Breaks

In this guest post, Facebook’s head of marketing science, Andy Ford (pictured below), dives deep into the social media giant’s recent research on TV ad viewability, and offers some tips for brands on how to keep consumers’ attention.

Andy Ford

A lot of my time is spent comparing the performance of channels, formats, metrics and more. It’s the thing I’m asked to do most by marketers, who are grappling with measuring their media in a meaningful way.

But when I’m asked about how viewability compares across digital publishers, I push back and ask how they measure viewability across non-digital channels. No-one has ever said they have.

So, I was delighted to read Dr Karen Nelson-Field’s latest piece where she quite rightly points out that attention is the way people build connections with brands through memory associations. As she succinctly puts it: “If you’re not paying any attention, you won’t process (or act upon) what is right in front of your face!”

Understanding what captivates people will help us plan media campaigns to optimise the delivery of a message and measure markers which directly influence outcomes.

To start to get a handle on this we conducted a study with international research institute Eye Square, starting with the most ingrained media behavior: a night in front of the television. According to a recent Global Web Index report, 74 per cent of Australians have their mobile phone within arm’s reach whilst watching TV, but we wanted to understand where they are focusing their attention in that time, and how much they take in.

We recruited TV viewers with a mixture of single, couple, co-habiting households, as well as a number containing ‘natural’ distractions (children, pets etc.). Respondents wore eye-tracking glasses during their prime-time viewing, which recorded how much time their eyes were on their TV screen, their mobile screen, and ‘other’ (e.g. looking at a clock, partner, pet). They were watching a linear TV feed, so were not able to fast-forward ad breaks but could change channel. As well as Australia, the research has run in six other countries including the UK and US, giving us robust samples (over 760 people) which provided consistent global themes and Australian nuances).

The results

Firstly, Australians really like their TV. Aussies are one of the more engaged audiences with programming across the global markets we studied, with 71 per cent of attention from participants on the tele, compared to 23 per cent on the phone. The other 6 per cent split between staring at the room or other people.

Facebook graph [1]

But when it came to ad breaks, there was a clear change in behavior and attention as people tuned out. Attention focused on TV amongst those studied dropped from 71 per cent to 43 per cent, whilst mobile grew from 23 per cent to 47 per cent.

A breakdown by age also gives a glimpse into emerging future behaviours. Our study showed under 35s ad viewing time dropped to 38 per cent, with their mobile attention increasing to over 50 per cent. This younger cohort is likely to represent the future total average in Australia as mobile use continues to become ingrained in behaviour.

We also delved into individual ad attention, measuring the amount of time participants in the study spent watching more than 1,700 15-second ads. It showed:

  • 36 per cent of all 15-second ads received no attention at all.
  • 58 per cent of all 15-second ads received attention for two seconds or more.
  • The smartphone was the top distraction (85 per cent of the time).
  • On average, just 23 per cent of people viewed 15-second ads to completion.
  • The channel was changed in 33 per cent of the ad breaks measured.

Facebook graph [2]

What impact does it have on consumers?

At the IAB Measure Up conference recently, I heard someone glibly dismiss the idea that people don’t always watch TV ad breaks by saying, ‘There have always been cups of tea’.

Whilst TV measurement does account for this, statements like that don’t help in understanding the impact of the increased number of distractions in a modern home for viewers, where mobile phones are ever-present.

It also got me thinking about why we accept an ‘allowable’ view on wastage – or a lack of viewability – for ‘traditional’ media, but not for digital?

Maybe there is a need to rethink how we are executing this creative to be more aligned to attention, delivering key messages early, succinctly and more impactfully in all channels – not just digital?

A lot of this is probably unsurprising to you if you have taken a moment to think about how you behave. And the purpose of this study is not to run down TV advertising – as we’ve said before, it’s a powerful and valuable medium.

But as Binet and Field’s recent work found, it needs to be complemented by a strong social and digital element to be truly effective – it’s understanding how that works together now that is important.

That is also backed up by the work of independent consultants Analytic Partners, whose research into digital and social ROI shows “the synergy of using two different tools resulted in an average increase in ROI of 19 per cent over campaigns using just one channel”.

Attention is a useful metric and much more aligned to outcomes, but it’s currently hard to recreate in an ongoing, sustainable way. So what can we do in the meantime? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Understand people’s attention and then plan your reach to be exhaustive across a range of channels instead of siloed. Utilise digital channels that can offer incremental reach.
  2. With attention moving between screens, creative must be designed to have impact from the start. Do not assume an audience will watch all of your ad in every environment.
  3. Push for comparisons across all channels. One of the first steps as we shift towards measuring attention and outcomes is to move from an opportunity to see on separate channels, to actual exposure across all channels.

All of this shows a clear need for the industry to push towards a single, comparable measurement currency which at the very least correlates with sales and/or brand outcomes, if not drives them.

If we can get away from the vanity metrics which come with a traditional media mentality to have something which shows how good integrated marketing can move the needle for businesses, the better it will be for everyone.

Please login with linkedin to comment

ad breaks ad viewability Andy Ford attention Facebook viewability

Latest News

Study: 51% Of Aussie Professionals Don’t Feel Safe Returning To The Office
  • Uncategorised

Study: 51% Of Aussie Professionals Don’t Feel Safe Returning To The Office

Just over half (51 per cent) of professionals who have been working remotely do not yet feel safe and happy to return to their co-located workplace, according to a survey of more than 3,000 working professionals by recruiting experts Hays.  Of these, Western Australians are the most confident, with 73 per cent of those who […]

Bendigo TAFE And Kangan Institute Launch Latest Advertising Campaign – Our Heroes
  • Campaigns

Bendigo TAFE And Kangan Institute Launch Latest Advertising Campaign – Our Heroes

Bendigo TAFE and Kangan Institute have launched their latest advertising campaign titled, Our Heroes, which is a celebration of the role their students play in the community. “Within a few short years, our students are building our houses, nursing our sick, fixing our cars, caring for our children and pets, designing our clothes – all […]

Splendid Promotes Mel Johnstone To Partner And Expands To The UK
  • Advertising

Splendid Promotes Mel Johnstone To Partner And Expands To The UK

Following a period of sustained growth and client wins, B2B technology marketing consultancy, Splendid Suggestions, has laid some solid foundations to support the business through the next phase of growth.  Off the back of a number of organic referrals from Australian–based clients sharing success with global counterparts, Splendid has recently appointed London-based Jess Littlewood (right, pictured), to lead the UK business and grow the new regional team.   Of the appointment, Tim Sands, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Splendid says “Jess […]

TikTok Appoints VMG Digital As Global Creative Marketing Partner
  • Media

TikTok Appoints VMG Digital As Global Creative Marketing Partner

VMG Digital, which creates bespoke, mobile-first video creative, optimised for social media platforms, today announces it has been appointed as a global Creative Marketing Partner for the TikTok Marketing Partner Program. Since launch in August 2020, the TikTok Marketing Partner Program gives brand marketers access to tools to create, measure and optimise ad campaigns on […]

Mediasmiths Appoints Natalie Murray As New Senior Account Planner/Buyer
  • Advertising

Mediasmiths Appoints Natalie Murray As New Senior Account Planner/Buyer

Independent media agency MediaSmiths today announced the appointment of senior media executive and former insights lead for independent agencies and direct clients at Nova Entertainment, Natalie Murray, as a new Senior Account Planner/Buyer. Murray will be responsible for end-to-end management, planning and buying for several of the agency’s key clients, ensuring outcomes are delivered. She […]

Simply flat lay design winner or champion gold trophy cup isolated on pink pastel colorful background. Victory first place of competition. Winning or success concept. Top view copy space
  • Media

Playground xyz And Are Media Win Inaugural IAB MeasureUp Awards

IAB Australia today announced Playground xyz and Are Media (formerly Bauer Media) as the winners of its inaugural IAB Australia MeasureUp Awards. Selected by the members of the MFA Interactive Committee, the winners will present their research during the 4th Annual MeasureUp conference which begins today. Playground xyz was awarded Best Advertising Effectiveness for its […]

Stockland Partners With Jules Sebastian For Virtual Recipe Series
  • Marketing

Stockland Partners With Jules Sebastian For Virtual Recipe Series

Stockland has partnered with Sydney-based presenter, stylist and author Jules Sebastian on a six-part Instagram TV recipe series – with episodes released monthly – in an effort to inspire customers to create healthy, easy-to-make meals from their kitchens at home. The series kicked off this month with an online demonstration from Jules on making the […]

Asian Youth Culture Agency PUSH Opens Sydney Office
  • Advertising

Asian Youth Culture Agency PUSH Opens Sydney Office

The Shanghai-born and Australian-owned creative agency, PUSH announces today the launch of their fourth creative studio in Sydney, Australia. PUSH are the leaders of culture-shaping content with a focus on Asian youth culture, skateboarding, music, fashion and gaming.