Advanced Television

Study: Advertising thrives in the living room

March 6, 2024

The living room is the environment at home that’s best suited for advertising to succeed. That’s the key finding from a study of video advertising that examined where in the home advertising was most likely to be remembered – and why.

The Context Effects study – jointly conducted by Map The Territory and Tapestry Research, and commissioned by Thinkbox, the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK – has identified the key factors influencing in-home video advertising performance and how they combine to help advertisers achieve success.

Key findings include:

  • High quality, professionally made video content drives 60 per cent higher ad recall than non-professional
  • People are 44 per cent more likely to trust advertising seen within professional content
  • TV screens drive the highest advertising recall: 34 per cent more than ads seen on a computer, 60 per cent more than on a tablet/smartphone
  • Audio is important: having a soundbar in a viewing occasion on a TV screen increases ad recall by 20 per cent
  • Ad recall increases by 23 per cent when watching with others
  • TV is the social medium: 44 per cent of TV is watched together with others, compared with 10 per cent for YouTube
  • The right in-home advertising context can increase ad recall by up to 6.3 times

Why is the living room great for advertising?

The study identified four key contextual factors that drive ad recall at home. In order of influence, these were:

  1. Watching professional video content
  2. The TV screen
  3. Being with company
  4. Our mood 

The researchers found that the living room offers by far the most powerful combination of these four factors and is the environment at home that’s best suited for advertising to succeed. When advertising was experienced in the living room, respondents had significantly better ad recall than in any other room of the house. The study found that the living room is:

  • 176 per cent better at driving ad recall than the kitchen
  • 10 per cent better than the bedroom
  • 22 per cent better than all the other rooms in the house

The primacy of professional content

The living room is used overwhelmingly to watch professionally produced content on a TV set, with this accounting for 80.2 per cent of living room video viewing (source: Barb). Only 5.1 per cent of living room viewing is to non-professional video content watched on the TV set – for example, user-generated content uploaded to YouTube. The remainder is other uses of TV sets, for example gaming.

The study discovered that ad recall is much higher from occasions involving professionally produced content compared with non-professional content, with 60 per cent higher ad recall for professional content vs. non-professional content.

People are also 44 per cent more likely to trust an advert seen within professional content and 39 per cent more likely to find the advertising entertaining.

Statistical analysis used in the study revealed that seeing advertising within professional video content not only directly drives ad recall but also indirectly; professional content is enjoyed more by viewers and enjoyment itself is a significant driver of ad recall.

Bigger the screen, bigger the memories

The study found that people are more likely to remember advertising if they see it on a big screen – and they are also likely to enjoy the occasion more.

In the research, TV screens drove the highest ad recall: 34 per cent more than advertising seen on a computer, 60 per cent more than on a tablet/smartphone.

The quality of audio was also significant, as well as the size of the screen. Having a soundbar in a viewing occasion on a TV screen was found to increase ad recall by 20 per cent.

Advertising works harder when it’s seen with others

The study found that ad recall increased by 23 per cent when watching with others, underlining the importance of shared environments to advertising performance.

According to Barb, 89 per cent of shared viewing occasions happen in the living room, compared with 7 per cent in the bedroom, 2 per cent in the kitchen, and 3 per cent in other rooms.

Social media is not that social

Barb data shows that TV is the shared medium. Across all its forms, 44 per cent of TV is watched jointly (42 per cent of live TV, 50 per cent of playback, 44 per cent of BVoD, and 43 per cent of SVoD). In comparison, only 10 per cent of YouTube is watched together with other people.

The study found that non-professional video content isn’t well suited to the living room. The living room is a social space, but online social media are increasingly tailored to specific individual tastes. Despite their name, social media look increasingly personal rather than social.

Advertising that is placed around non-professional content is better suited for personal, more targeted tastes. However the research identified a risk of advertising being skipped when it is encountered in this more private content, as it could come between the viewer and their most personal interests.

The home of quality content

By measuring the contextual factors influencing ad recall, the study identified that for the best combination of in-home factors (in the living room, watching professional content on a TV set with others, feeling satisfied with the occasion) average ad recall was 32.5 per cent.

Compared to the weakest combination of factors (in the kitchen, watching non-professional content on your own – 5.1 per cent ad recall on average) this shows that the right in-home advertising context can increase ad recall by up to 6.3 times.

“TV is the social medium,” commented Matt Hill, Research and Planning Director, Thinkbox. “It brings people together and gets ads talked about. Every night there are nearly 5 million conversations about the ads on commercial TV. Great planners have long argued the case for the power of context and this study provides the proof that it really does make a huge difference – even room to room. What’s clear from this research is that TV is uniquely placed to deliver the context that delivers memorability: big screen, professionally produced, viewed together, and mood enhancing.” 

“To understand why advertising is so effective in the living room you need to understand why people are there,” explained Andy Davidson, Co-Founder of Map The Territory. “We learned that people don’t only gather to watch TV, they also watch TV to gather. In this context all shared content, from the hot new drama to a regular video ad, is working in the higher service of bringing that household a little closer together. It’s all useful, so ads are more accepted, relevant, enjoyed, and ultimately more memorable. In contrast, social media is, ironically, much more personal, and this anti-social content – and advertising around it – is less suited to the shared living room environment.”

“Understanding the impact of context on ad recall is difficult to do, and not something that we measure through direct questioning of consumers,” added Ian Wright, Joint Managing Director of Tapestry Research. “Instead, we asked viewers a number of simple questions – such as ‘what did you watch yesterday?’ and ‘who were you with?’ – and then used advanced modelling techniques to understand what’s going on in people’s homes in relation to ad recall. What emerged was that the living room offers a complex and powerful set of factors that combine to drive higher ad recall.

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