Neuroscientific Research Breaks Down Addressable TV’s Impact


Addressable TV’s proposition is based on the idea that targeted ads next to premium content on a big screen are a uniquely powerful offering. New neuroscientific research commissioned by addressable TV specialist Finecast has given some firm evidence to these claims, while also laying out some of the nuances behind them.

Finecast worked with Dipsticks Research Group (DRG) and a team of professors at University College London to measure how viewers psychologically process addressable TV advertising, in comparison to other forms of advertising. The research used post-content surveys, asking participants how they felt about an ad and what they remembered about it. But the UCL teams also used explicit behavioural measures, like how quickly participants answered questions and which responses their mouse hovered over before they answered, as well as implicit measures, like participants’ heart rates. These behavioural measures were designed to give a more accurate view of how viewers responded to ads.

Harry Harcus, UK MD of Finecast, said the research backed up some of the claims commonly made about addressable TV advertising’s impact. “Overall, addressable ads were seen as a positive by viewers, as there was a clear marked difference in how well participants liked ads which were targeted at their profile,” he said.

There was, however, variation between targeted categories. Ads targeted by gender and ads targeted towards people interested in cars both got a significantly more positive response. But ads targeted at the ‘family’ category, which was much broader and less defined, were no better received than targeted ads.

Participants were also better able to recall addressable TV ads, both in terms of the answers they gave, and in how quickly they gave those answers.

Screen size meanwhile seemed to have no impact on how well participants enjoyed the ads they were shown, which Harcus said came as a surprise. “We were expecting that on a big TV screen, viewers would like the ads more than they would on a mobile device”, he said.

But recall was better for ads shown on a big screen. And viewers’ heart rates were lower when watching ads on a big screen – which in the study was assumed to be a positive. A lower heart rate suggests that the viewer is more relaxed, which leads to better engagement.

Overall, Harcus said the research gives weight to claims made about addressable TV advertising’s effectiveness. And he said these sorts of studies will be important for demonstrating addressable TV advertising’s value to buyers. “No one piece of research is going to completely change anyone’s perception of things,” he said. “But I think it will hopefully create more positive sentiment towards the possibilities of addressable TV. And the big social media platforms have done a brilliant job over the last 15 years of proving their value, so it’s important that addressable TV does the same.”

And Professor Joe Devlin, who ran the study, agreed. “From the neuroscientific study, we found strong evidence that addressable TV advertising is more compelling to consumers than non-addressable, demonstrating that relevance to the household increases engagement,” he said.

But the research also shows that it’s too simplistic to say that addressable ads on a big screen are always more effective than non-targeted ads on a small screen. The differences in how audiences react to ads based on screen size, and in the specific categories used to target ads, have implications for brands working with addressable TV. Harcus said one key takeaway is that media planners shouldn’t assume that audience categories they’re using elsewhere can simply be transferred across to addressable TV and work equally well.

“What we’re doing with our agencies and our clients is trying to get involved in the process much earlier on, with regards to briefing and planning the creation of custom audiences for those brands,” he said. “You shouldn’t just repurpose a bit of creative and an audience which worked well elsewhere, and bring those things over to addressable TV as well. It’s not as simple as that.”


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