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August 15, 2021

Recent Research Shows Limited Opportunities for Actual Ad Exposure

Ebiquity, a British-based marketing and media consultancy, recently released a report, “The Challenge of Attention,” which was produced in conjunction with TVision and Lumen research. While the core message of this report was that attentive time spent should (and theoretically can) be a part of marketers’ plans, which is very much a topic du jour these days, we were interested in their findings on time spent with the media versus advertising and the difference between ad exposures versus ad viewing.

Using data from the U.K.’s IPA Touchpoints (a media exposure survey) and Lumen and TVision’s attention data, it was determined that in an average day, respondents spent 299 minutes using media, 84 minutes of which were advertising. Of these 84 minutes of potential exposure, 9 minutes were spent actually viewing ads; in other words, roughly 11% of potential exposures became actual exposures.

Ebiquity also explored the variations by medium, finding that about 42% of an average respondent’s media time was spent with commercial TV, followed by 24% with social media and 14% with the internet. When it came to potential versus actual exposure, the findings were as follows:


Here we see that commercial TV and online video had the highest actual exposure rates, while the Internet fared poorly—undoubtedly due to cluttered screens which many ignore. But the crucial point, at least in our opinion, is how little opportunity there is to actually get through to consumers. Turning to data that we present in two of our most popular analyses (“How Many Ads Are We Really Exposed To?” and “How About Evaluating Ads in Terms of Actual Ad Exposure?”), we can do a little rough math to drive the point home. The average adult devotes about 4 hours per day to ad-supported TV/video and about 25% of this time consists of ad messages. So that's 60 minutes of ads that might be looked at. But the average adult has eyes on screen only 20% of the time when an ad is on, so that cuts the time spent "watching" TV/video commercials to 12 minutes per day. Add another 10 minutes for other ads (print, radio, etc.) and this rises to 22 minutes per day. As the average adult is awake for about 15 hours per day—or 900 minutes—this comes out to 2.4% of awake time watching, reading, or listening to ads. It seems like consumers just aren’t giving ads the time of day, so to speak.

Is Ad Effectiveness on Connected TV Different than on Linear?

 For decades, analyzing ad impact/effectiveness has been a central part of Media Dynamics, Inc.’s annual TV Dimensions report. We therefore were interested to see TVision’s recent topline findings in “The Impact of Repeat Ads on CTV Performance,” which focuses on the issue of ad wearout. TVision’s report collected data from 5,000 U.S. homes between 10/29/20 and 7/5/21, with a specific focus on ads that aired within an hour of each other. Fifteen-, 30- and 60-second ads were measured to evaluate their performance relative to the frequency of their repetition.

The key finding was that when the same creative was used, ads that were spaced farther apart performed better; viewers paid attention to an average eight seconds of an ad airing multiple times within a five-minute period, compared to just over nine seconds of ads that aired more than five minutes apart. In addition, TVision found that shorter ads (:15s) held up better than longer ads (:30s and :60s) when presented in quick succession. In a scenario where ads are repeated multiple times within a five-minute period, viewers watched about 45% of repeated :15s, 27% of repeated :30s and 14% of repeated :60s.

As a point of comparison, we also took a look at TVision’s “CTV Advertising Report,” which covered data from the first quarter of 2021, to try and determine how shorter ads compared to longer ads overall. While the data were not directly comparable, we were able to make some estimates based on the findings for the top ad-supported CTV apps based on time spent (YouTube, Hulu, YouTubeTV, Sling and xfinity). Here, viewers paid attention to between 47-62% of 15-second ads, while 30-second ads fared more poorly, with viewers paying attention to 32-48%.

As we report in TV Dimensions 2020 (“Relative Recall Values of TV Commercials by Length, from the 1960s to Now”), on linear TV, verified ad message recall has declined in longer duration ads and increased in shorter duration ads. The reason for this is two-fold. First, viewer attention spans have shortened; once :15s could only present a simple idea effectively, but now viewers are capable of digesting more complex messages in a short amount of time. Secondly, in the early days of :15s, they were often just hacked down versions of a :30, presented as a cost-efficient boost to the longer ad. Now, :15s are created to stand on their own, and are more effective in communicating their message.

Perhaps what we see in CTV advertising is an acceleration of such trends. In general, while :30s still outperform :15s on linear TV (although in decreasing margins), on ad-supported platforms, :15s already appear to perform more effectively than :30s. If advertising on new platforms functions significantly differently that on linear TV, much more research is needed to understand how to best use it. In recent years there has been a paucity of new research on this topic, so we welcome TVision’s CTV research, and hope it encourages updated research on the part of linear TV as well.


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