London Business School study questions efficacy of TV ads

LONDON: Is advertising on television really a value for money proposition? Not if you go by the findings revealed in a recent study by the London Business School (LBS).

The LBS study has also put a question mark on viewership ratings, which according to it only measure how many people have their television sets on, rather than the number of people actively watching.

The study found that people who watched television with family or friends were far more likely to talk to each other during the commercial breaks than to focus on the ads.

In a radical departure from established norm, which sees the maximum ad spend going onto shows with the highest viewership, the study claims that less-watched shows could in fact be a better option for advertisers. The reasoning behind this is that lone viewers were more likely to be concentrating on the ads.

"In a breathtaking example of ignorance and strategic naivety, advertisers have spent millions in the mistaken belief that they have purchased an audience for their advertising that never existed," LBS assistant professor of marketing Mark Ritson was quoted as saying by the Financial Times.

"They could have spent less money and ensured more exposure by buying spots that delivered a lonely but more attentive viewer," Ritson was quoted as having said.

Ritson made his findings based on a sample comprising people ranging from retired couples to a group of immigrant office workers over a single week using miniature cameras and microphones.

The observations indicated that those viewers derides products and ads and passed negative comments on the products and services. Others spent the commercial break doing housework, reading or channel hopping.

Several avid viewers watched not more than half the ad commercials. "This is important because most countries use "peoplemeters" to measure advertising audiences. The problem is that the peoplemeter assumes that people in living rooms during commercial breaks are watching the advertising if they are present in the room," the report says.

Research agencies confirm that there is no method to verify whether the ads are being watched or not. Separate studies have to be conducted in order to verify the same. The debate on viewership ratings continues!


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