The Impact of Media Environment

Over the years, PTG has conducted numerous media environment tests for clients.  Since the topic has come up again, I thought I would share some of our learning.

Proceed with Caution

Historically, advertising campaigns have been evaluated according to a thumb up or down rate card that assesses performance myopically.  For example, high recall scores collected under forced exposure have long been considered the currency of copy testing. However, we would argue that recall measures only provide a portion of the predictive data required to truly evaluate an ad’s success.

We believe it’s vital that marketing decisions be evaluated more holistically.  For instance, it’s important to incorporate media placement, emotional response and real world involvement alongside more traditional key performance metrics. By addressing all external factors that can lead to the success of a television spot, you will undoubtedly identify opportunities for optimization that far exceed traditional pass/fail systems.

General Trends in Media Placement

Our experience has shown that the selection of media environment impacts zapping (aka: involvement), believability, engagement and follow up.  However, this impact presents itself in different ways depending on the type of environment, type of ad message and number of competitive ads in the program’s commercial pods.

For instance, among younger viewers, there is more ad tolerance (less zapping and less second screen attendance) when watching sports and comedy shows. However, our research has also shown that attention to the message and engagement is lower as it pertains to commercial specifics (i.e. readership of copy, noting brand name at end of the ad etc.). Among this audience we have also found message believability to fall below average.

On the other side of the coin, older viewers have much more involvement with news, documentaries and crime/drama shows, and are far more engaged with commercial specifics and the believability of their messages. This tendency is especially true for DTC commercials.

Best Practices

  1. PTG data shows an increase in ad zapping among younger viewers and less ad recall among older viewers when there are too many similar category commercials within the same 30 minute program.
  2. Commercials that reference the same content as the programming often lead to much greater engagement and follow through.
  3. Having a TV show’s character appear in your commercial, while the program is airing, is an incredible engagement tool.
  4. Interestingly, we have found that “breaking the rules” can also pay off. For instance, placing an ad or a commercial in a media environment where one wouldn’t necessarily expect to see it has shown to deliver breakthrough attention, engagement and serious consideration. The moral of the story is as long as the target audience is present, marketers may see better engagement even if a commercial doesn’t necessarily “belong”.

Use Cases and In-Market Examples

  1. An AARP commercial, showing elder folk fighting neighborhood crime did especially well in a Criminal Minds show.
  2. A Discover commercial that promoted the ability to freeze an account when lost also performed very well during NCIS and CSI programs that addressed lost wallets and identity theft.
  3. DTC commercials do much better in medical drama programs.
  4. Engagement skyrocketed when Joe Mantegna appeared as a spokesperson for an insurance company ad within the one hour airing of Criminal Minds (in which he was a principal character).
  5. Dennis Haysbert, the “President” of the TV show “24” proved to be an exceptional Allstate Insurance spokesperson, especially when his ads appeared during the airing of “24.”
  6. Nikon camera ads performed very well in Businessweek magazine and weight loss and ED product ads did well in Sports Illustrated (apparently not all couch-potato sports players are in the best of shape).
  7. SUV commercials do very well in children’s programming because Moms often watch the shows alongside their children.
  8. The moral of the story is as long as the target audience is present, one may see better engagement even if a commercial doesn’t necessarily “belong”.

To learn more, feel free to reach me at





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