Engagement, Creative Efficacy

Time for Advertising to Hibernate

Posted 29 Apr 2019

If you have advertising scheduled to air in the coming few weeks, particularly if there is a chance that you will follow a political ad, then think very seriously about postponing the communication until post the election.

Time for Advertising Hibernation

The May 18 Australian Federal election is now less than three weeks away and it is time for brands that are concerned for the efficacy of their advertising to go into communication hibernation until post the election.

Brand-safety does not just relate to the kind of extreme material involved in the YouTube brand-safety scandal of 2017. Australian marketing science firm Forethought has shown that any preceding content that elicits a negative emotion, can markedly affect the performance of subsequent brand advertising.

During the 2016 United States presidential election, Forethought in partnership with J. Walter Thompson NYC, conducted research to measure the impact on the efficacy of neighbouring ads when the brand ad followed a spot for presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. In total, 12 different political ads were tested for their effect on brand ads. (These findings were published in ‘The effect of context on ad receptivity,’ Michael Sankey and Ken Roberts ADMAP, November 2017.)

Time for Advertising to Hibernate

The hypothesis going into the research was that just the attack spots (denigrating the opponent) would be damaging to the following spot however, all political ads significantly detracted from the following brand ads’ performance.

In short, the residue of negative emotion elicited by the preceding political ads, significantly damaged the performance of the brand ads therefore wasting advertising investment. The implications for context and brand-safety are profound: the hangover effect of negative emotions generated by political content flows directly into the brands.

  • When the brand ad ran after a political ad, it was perceived as 32% less relevant, 29% less entertaining and 27% less appealing.
  • The brand itself was also negatively impacted. Viewers rated the brand’s reputation, product quality and value lower as a result of the negative political spot.
  • Most concerning for brand marketers was the 26% decline in current customers’ purchase intent.

The simple solution is to ensure your advertising does not follow political advertising although with programmatic media buying, that may be easily said than done.

Were these findings generalisable to beyond just political spots? The American peak body, the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) sponsored Forethought to repeat the experiment using brand spots that intentionally elicited unresolved negative emotions (specifically anxiety, anger and sadness). The negative ads were for an insurance brand (Allstate Insurance).

The results showed that the findings from the political study were replicated with the same negative hangover effect occurring after consumers had watched the insurance ads. (These findings were referenced in ‘How Context Can Make Advertising More Effective,’ Horst Stipp, Journal of Advertising Research, June 2018.)

How Context is Being Used Today

Converse to the effects of negative ads, an elicitation of positive emotions from media content results in a more favourable, non-conscious processing of the advertising shown alongside that content. In 2019, Turner Broadcasting (NBA, CNN and so on) commissioned Forethought to assist in creating branded content adjacent to product placement which elicits the brand’s target positive emotion.

Leading advertisers and media proprietors are learning to adapt to the findings from brand-safety research. Organisations such as Turner are applying the learnings to positively effect advertisers’ communications performance. Soon, we are certain to see media proprietors charging premiums to advertisers for placement of spots following relevant positive content.

For example, for brand X that is seeking to elicit happiness as a part of triggering consumer choice, showing an individual Collingwood Football Club supporter a brand X spot directly after a Collingwood has defeated its opposition.

In the meantime, either pay to take the first ad in the break (given the election is less than three weeks away, the lead time for securing the first ad in the break probably makes this option impractical) or think very seriously about postponing the communication until post the election.

For more information:

Ken Roberts 0412109993

Group CEO, Forethought Pty Ltd

Level 5, 550 Bourke Street, Melbourne, Australia

Level 5, 400 Madison Avenue, NYC, USA

[email protected]

About Forethought

Forethought is Australia’s most awarded marketing insights business. According to USA authority Greenbook, Forethought was in the top 150 largest marketing research agencies in the world (103). Forethought believes marketing science should empower decision-making. We not only work with our clients to define their growth challenges, design research and analyse data, but we take it one step further – we move through to activation and help management to implement tangible change.

About Ken Roberts

Ken Roberts, Group Chief Executive Officer and Founder, opened the Forethought doors and solved his first client challenge in July 1994. He has since led Forethought to be ranked the most commercially effective and innovative marketing science consultancy in Australia.

Ken is a serial innovator and inventor. He has pioneered the application of advanced analytics and implicit measurement in applied marketing.

Amongst his industry recognition, Ken has been awarded the:

  • ARF Gold David Ogilvy Award for Research in Communications;
  • AMSRS Award for Innovation in Research Methods (twice);
  • AMSRS Award for Commercial Effectiveness (twice); and
  • Australian Marketing Institute CPM Marketer of the Year.

Ken has twice been first runner-up in the globally prestigious INFORMS MSI Practice Prize. The capstone competition for applied statistics and has published extensively, including twice in the Journal of Marketing Science and seven times in ADMAP.

Ken is an Advisory Board Member Centre for Business Analytics at Melbourne Business School, a top 25 business school in the world. He is also a former Associate Professor from that same university.

In October 2016, the Vice Chancellor of Monash University in Melbourne honoured Ken’s contribution to marketing with a Distinguished Alumni Fellowship.