Background information

In this week’s egtabite we take a closer look at the findings of an innovative Dutch study measuring attention that was recently presented at egta’s Market Intelligence Meeting. The sales house of the Dutch public broadcaster, Ster, conducted a large neuro study in 2022, based on brain scanning and eye tracking. The study resulted in valuable findings about how attention is highly affected by the creative, the context in which it is shown, and the combination of TV and radio.

Together with research companies Motivaction and Alpha.One Ster set up a neuro-study with EEG scan and eye-tracking among more than 150 participants. The main goal of the study was to find out how you can grab attention with radio, how it differs from TV and how the interaction with TV and radio works. The findings help Ster in advising their clients on how to develop an ad that grabs maximum attention.

Participants of the study were watching TV content and listening to radio with commercial breaks consisting of a variety of brands and products. Ster changed the order of the spots to measure the levels of attention accurately. To mimic the usual listening situation, when radio is a secondary medium to other tasks, the researchers gave the participants adult colouring books to occupy them while listening to the radio.

How to attract attention – creative matters

There are various things to consider when designing a creative so that it commands more attention from viewers and listeners. The study found that it is important to simplify the overall message used in the ad, and to use a maximum of two to four messages together with pauses not to create a cognitive overload. This applies to both TV and radio.

When it comes to radio ads, brands should be careful how they communicate prices – while 9.99 works visually, when heard the listener tends to remember only the 99 figure. Percentages or rounded numbers work much better in keeping the listener attention. In general, storytelling in ads gives the listener structure and makes an ad easier to digest – and again helps keep the listener’s attention.

When it comes to visual attention, it is important to avoid the changing of images, colours, and scenes too often. The message is best placed in the middle part of the creative where most attention is paid. People also tend to focus on the characters’ eyes, so brands should avoid placing important messages or company logo together with a character’s face. One solution is to make use of the character by having them look at the logo, for example, to draw attention to it.

Context in TV ads also matters, where programme genres demand different levels of attention. Ster found that the average level of spot attention increases by programme type that precedes the commercial break, e.g. informative (+10%), sport (+20%) over entertainment content. Viewer attention during the spot also varies – for spots after entertainment, the attention peaked mid-spot when there was music, whereas for sport and informative content, the peak attention came at the end of the spot.

The results showed that TV tends to generate 1.7x as much attention as radio ads. Still, radio ads can generate a significant amount of attention – especially combined with the general lower cost vs. TV ads.

Combining radio and TV

Ster found that combining radio and TV in the media mix generates up to 1.5x times more attention for the campaign on average. The type of campaign - activation or branding – affects the ideal order.

For an activation campaign, with a lot of product information, prices and messages, it is better to start with TV first and then add radio later. The visual aspect of TV helps to understand more complex and fuller messages. If the radio ad is heard after that, it generates more attention than without the visual transfer.

With branding campaigns, it is the other way around. Brands should build up their campaign sensorially via storytelling, simple messages and a clear brand story – the radio ad is a bit of a teaser with just the audio. When the TV campaign airs, the visual aspect is new and generates extra attention.