Emotions, attitudes and memorability associated with TV commercials

  • Li-Wei Mai
  • Georgia Schoeller
Original Article

DOI: 10.1057/jt.2009.1

Cite this article as:
Mai, LW. & Schoeller, G. J Target Meas Anal Mark (2009) 17: 55. doi:10.1057/jt.2009.1

Abstract

This paper aims to identify the effect of selected advertising on consumers by assessing their emotions, attitudes, understanding and memory. An online survey combined with experimentation design was conducted among people aged 20 or over. Four selected TV commercials were used in the experiment, and the measurements of emotions, attitudes and memorability were calculated based on variables derived from previous studies. A final sample of 120 respondents was used for analysis. The result shows that different levels of emotions such as warmth, love, longing and desire, happiness and amusement were elicited by different TV commercials. The most memorable advertisements were those that evoked the most positive feelings and were the best understood. However, in this study none of the commercials scored higher than three out of five for memorability. This reflects an overload of media exposure in modern society, meaning that most advertisements have limited impact. Age was found to significantly affect a person's interpretation and emotional experience of a TV commercial.

Keywords

advertising and emotions attitudes towards advertising memorability of advertising TV commercials experimentation 

INTRODUCTION

In the multi-media age, marketers have a wide range of means in reaching and communicating with their target audience. As a result, there is a tendency for consumers to be overexposed to audio and visual marketing messages, information, texts and graphics. To deal with this, consumers are becoming accustomed to screening out and ignoring uninteresting advertisements, especially those that lack innovation.1 In turn, advertisers are challenged as never before to get their messages across in order to stand out in this overexcited information overload. If an advertising concept is to be successful, it has to be original and emphasise information, such as product characteristics, features and factual contents, and to communicate persuasive selling propositions that distinguish its product from competitors’.2 However, as the disparity between products is narrowing, informative advertising is not as effective in creating a differential effect. The actual product benefits are no longer the principal factors that appeal to consumers. The emerging emphasis is the emotional additive benefit, known as ‘consumer end-benefit’ or ‘emotional attachment’, which is used to retain customers.3, 4, 5

This paper aims to identify the effect of selected advertising on consumers by assessing their emotions, attitudes, understanding and the probable remembrance of the advertising.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Advertising contents can be grouped as informative and/or emotional. Puto and Hoyer6 defined informative advertising as advertising that conveys factual, arguably verifiable or logically relevant information to the product, by which it educates consumers in the evaluation of the product attributes after viewing this kind of advertising. Very often, informative advertising limits the content of the message to the actual product characteristics and provable or comparable messages, such as clinical tests or price information. In contrast, emotional advertising aims to transfer stimuli to the audience in an attempt to elicit their feelings, and tries to trigger an emotional response from the consumer when exposed to the advertisement.7 Advertising is designed to influence behaviours and evoke responses. Consumers’ behaviours and responses are determined by their attitudes towards the advertisement. ‘Attitude’ is one of the most frequently used variables in researching advertising effectiveness.7 As the attitude towards the advertisement has a direct impact on the attitude towards the brand, advertisers try to create positive attitudes towards the advertisement by evoking a favourable or positive emotional state in the consumer. Therefore, the positive association of the emotional state is most desired.8, 9 Furthermore, attitudes towards the advertisement can be distinguished in a cognitive or an emotional element. While the first component concerns the consumers’ conscious response to the advertisement, the second is determined by the emotional response to it. In a cognitive response, a consumer builds a positive attitude towards the advertisement because he is, for example, convinced by a credible reasoning. In an emotional response, the consumer prefers an advertisement because it elicits a positive feeling in him such as love, joy or nostalgia.10

Emotions

A review of the literature has shown that emotions can be reflected in different forms: (i) physiological change, (ii) spontaneous or expressive behaviour, including facial expressions, gestures or posture and (iii) subjective experience, including feelings such as joy, sorrow, fear, envy, anger or pride.11 This study will focus on the subjective experience of emotions.

Izard12 summarised nine primary emotions: interest, enjoyment, surprise, distress, disgust, anger, shame, fear and contempt. These primary emotions have been developed in the course of evolution due to biological survival behaviours and the need for social adaptations, and are therefore anchored in the predisposition of human beings. The emotions all differ with regard to the subjective experience and are very often displayed through facial expressions. Similarly, Plutchnik13 identified eight primary emotions: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, acceptance and joy. In spite of ‘acceptance’, the emotions of Plutchnik are aligned with those identified by Izard. In comparison, one is biologically oriented and the other is social. Zeitlin and Westwood's14 study bridged these two schools of thought in differentiating different types of emotions; for instance, ‘disgust’ is related to ‘anger’ and is functionally the opposite of ‘acceptance’. The findings suggested that all other emotions (secondary emotions) are mixtures of two or more primary emotions. For instance, ‘curiosity’ derives from the mixture of acceptance and surprise, or ‘guilt’ from the primary emotions fear and joy. See Table 1 for more components of secondary emotions.
Table 1

Components of some secondary emotions

 

Joy

Acceptance

Fear

Surprise

Sadness

Disgust

Anger

Anticipation

Aggression

Curiosity

Disappointment

Embarrassment

Envy

Guilt

Hate

Love

Misery

Optimism

Pessimism

Pride

Prudishness

Sentimentality

Source: Zeitlin and Westwood.14

The table gives an overview of only some emotions. There are additional ones, such as sorrow, belonging, security, jealousy, boredom, amusement, happiness and so on. Important to mention are also the following states of feeling: warmth, humour, eroticism, shock, horror, credibility, passion, trust and hope, which are often used by advertisers to increase levels of attention and awareness.15, 16

Emotions in advertising

Emotions play an important part in the response to the effect of TV advertisements, or other forms of media communication, on consumers. The emotional response of a viewer has an influence on the attitude towards the advertisement and the brand.17 An emotional appeal increases the advertisement's ability to draw attention, and enhances the attractiveness of the product, the message and the brand recall.18 A selection of appeals that are often used by advertisers to elicit an emotional response are identified in Table 2. They can be distinguished as positive and negative appeals. However, it is important to mention that the list of emotional appeals is long, and that advertisements usually evoke more than one emotion.
Table 2

A summary of emotional appeals

 

Positive

Negative

Appeals: Emotions evoked

Humour: Joy, happiness, amusement19 Warmth: Love, friendship, caring, tenderness20 Sex: Sexual21 Passion: Enthusiastic Nostalgia: Sentimental22 Indulgence: Pleasure, guilt19

Fear: fearful;20discomfort21 Shock: Sadness, sympathy, disapproval22

Memorability of emotional advertising

Tools to increase the memorability of advertisements are repetition, jingles or slogans. Furthermore, it is important to mention that consumers pay the most attention at the beginning of the ad, whereas the end of the commercial is the most important part for memorability.23 It is also found that not only do emotional responses to advertisements have a positive impact on message recall, but also that advertisements that evoke emotions are more likely recalled than informative commercials.24 The level of involvement with the product, as well as the familiarity with the brand, has a positive effect on remembering an advertisement.24 A further aspect is the mood of the viewer. In general, it can be said that how the message content is processed and memorised depends on the consumer's state of feeling. If the viewer is in a negative mood, for example feeling anger, sadness or frustration, a strong message content can be better processed and remembered than a weak one. Viewers in a positive mood seem to differentiate less between strong and weak message contents.25

After having identified the reason and effect of emotional advertising, as well as different types of message appeals and the aspect of memorability, the next section discusses the methods used in the empirical data collection.

METHODOLOGY

A survey combined with experimentation design was conducted to assess the advertising effect on the respondents. Screening through the TV commercials aired in the United Kingdom and archived in creativeclub.co.uk between January 2004 and July 2006, four TV commercials were selected based on their duration (40 seconds), advertising elements, themes and assumed emotions that they evoke (see Table 3). Experimentation involves manipulation of the TV commercials (independent variables, A1, A2, A3 and A4) for the purpose of measuring the changes of audiences’ emotions, attitudes and perceived levels of memorability of the commercials (dependant variable, see Table 4).26 Two focus groups were used to help in finalising the dependent and independent variables and in pre-testing the experiment before the actual fieldwork. The experimentation was implemented in the form of a web survey among people aged 20 or over. The questionnaire was used as an instrument to record the outcomes of the experiment. The variables were derived from the literature to measure respondents’ emotions, attitudes towards the commercial and their memorability. The questionnaire was posted on the author's personal website and four selected commercials were posted on YouTube. Referral sampling was used for this survey, requesting respondents to introduce other potential audiences to participate in the survey. Respondents were given clear instructions on the questionnaire; at the same time, they were to open another browser on YouTube logging on to a pre-set account to view the commercials. The snowball effect generated 150 responses, but there were 120 final valid cases for analysis. The total length of time for filling in the questionnaire was about 40 min.
Table 3

Four selected TV commercials

 

Advert 1 (A1)

Advert 2 (A2)

Advert 3 (A3)

Advert 4 (A4)

Brand

Baci

British Airways

Nescafé

Nike

Company

Nestlé

British Airways

Nestlé

Nike

Broadcasted

UK

UK

UK

UK

First appeared

5 February 2005

1 May 2004

16 November 2004

9 February 2006

Last appeared

6 March 2005

2 June 2005

1 April 2006

7 March 2006

Duration (seconds)

40

40

40

40

End line

Hazelnut wrapped in chocolate. Chocolate wrapped in love.

British Airways – The way to fly.

The coffee lovers’ coffee.

Can you honestly tell me I am not an athlete?

Table 4

A list of dependent variables

Dependent variables

Emotions (5-point interval scale)

Attitudes (5-point bipolar scale)

Memorability (5-point interval scale)

Attitudes toward the brand (5-point bipolar scale)

Humour

Boring/Interesting

Understanding

Uninvolving/Involving

Warmth

Bad/Good

Memorability

Boring/Interesting

Sex/Eroticism

Dislikeable/Likeable

 

Not needed/Needed

Passion

Not funny/Funny

 

Unexciting/Exciting

Longing/Desire

Unpleasant/Pleasant

 

Dislikeable/Likeable

Interest/Curiosity

Uninformative/Informative

 

Unfamiliar/Familiar

Enjoyment/Amusement

Not entertaining/Entertaining

 

The brand means nothing/a lot to me

Happiness

I feel negative/positive towards the commercial

  

Surprise

   

Admiration

   

Jealousy

   

Love

   

Pride

   

Belonging

   

Trust

   

Feeling of freedom

   

Hope

   

Boredom

   

Self-empowerment

   

Relaxation

   

RESULTS OF ANALYSIS

Sample profile and pre-experimental state

The sample consisted of 120 valid responses. More than half of the respondents were ‘feeling good’ (56.7 per cent) before answering the questionnaire, while 43.3 were ‘feeling alright’. ANOVA analysis did not detect any significant difference in the state of respondents’ feelings and the demographics. Almost half of the respondents were aged between 25 and 34 (46.7 per cent), 22.5 per cent were aged 20–24 and 12.5 per cent were aged 35–44. Of the total sample, 53.3 per cent were female and 46.7 per cent were male. The married respondents comprised 30.8 per cent and 69.2 per cent were single. The occupations cover a wide range of groups, but with larger numbers of students (37.5 per cent) and professionals (25.8 per cent) than the rest (see Table 5). This is consistent with Internet usage and users’ profiles and is attributed to the fact that it is a web-based survey.
Table 5

Respondents’ profiles n=120

Variables

Per cent (%)

State of mind

 Feeling good

56.7

 Feeling alright/average

43.3

 Feeling bad/worse than average

0

Gender

 Male

46.7

 Female

53.5

Age

 20–24

22.5

 25–34

46.7

 35–44

12.5

 45 and over

18.3

Marital status

 Married

30.8

 Single

69.2

Occupation

 Student

37.5

 Professionals

25.8

 Retired

11.7

 Manager/Executive

9.2

 Secretary/Clerk/Office worker

8.3

 Entrepreneur

7.5

An assessment on emotions influenced by the advertisements

The highest level of emotions elicited during the experiment were ‘Warmth’ (4.06) by Baci's (A1) commercial, followed by ‘Passion’ (3.98) elicited by Nike (A4), ‘Admiration’ by Nike (A4), ‘Longing/Desire’ (3.76) by Baci (A1) and ‘Feeling of Freedom’ by British Airways (A2). Of the four TV commercials, Baci (A1) has the highest overall mean score (2.24). Yet, as commercials are usually designed to elicit only particular types of emotions based on the theme, as a result the overall mean may not convey an accurate account of how successful these commercials were in eliciting emotions. Based on the top three mean scores of each of the commercials, Baci still scored the highest and Nike the second.

The strongest emotions evoked by Baci's (A1) commercials were ‘Warmth’ (4.06), ‘Longing/Desire’ (3.76), ‘Love’ (mean=3.76), ‘Happiness’ (3.39) and ‘Passion’ (3.38). For British Airways (A2), only ‘Feeling of Freedom’ (3.69) and ‘Relaxation’ (3.04) scored above 3. For Nescafé (A3), ‘Humour’ (3.57) and ‘Love’ (3.57) scored equally high, followed by ‘Enjoyment/Amusement’ (3.38). For Nike (A4), the strongest emotion elicited was ‘Passion’ (3.98), followed by ‘Admiration’ (3.78) and ‘Interest/Curiosity’ (3.04) (Table 6).
Table 6

Emotions elicited by selected commercials n=120

Emotions

Means: Pair-sample t-test 1=Emotion has not been elicited at all; 5=Emotion has been elicited very strongly

 

Advert 1 (A1)

Advert 2 (A1)

Advert 3 (A3)

Advert 4 (A4)

Humour

1.20

0.72

3.57

0.84

Warmth

4.06

2.62

3.42

1.14

Sex/Eroticism

2.13

0.86

1.91

3.01

Passion

3.38

1.48

2.73

3.98

Longing/Desire

3.76

2.74

2.84

2.24

Interest/Curiosity

2.87

2.34

2.67

3.04

Enjoyment/Amusement

3.23

2.58

3.38

2.98

Happiness

3.39

2.98

3.46

2.70

Surprise

2.53

1.23

2.97

1.48

Admiration

1.58

1.04

1.23

3.78

Jealousy

0.58

0.63

0.98

1.43

Love

3.66

1.93

3.57

0.78

Pride

0.76

0.97

0.76

2.17

Belonging

1.28

0.97

1.90

1.01

Trust

2.08

2.76

1.89

1.29

Feeling of Freedom

1.06

3.69

0.91

3.02

Hope

2.83

1.87

2.29

1.23

Boredom

0.72

1.55

0.96

0.83

Self-empowerment

1.15

0.88

0.95

2.84

Relaxation

2.52

3.04

2.25

0.74

Overall mean score

2.24

1.84

2.23

2.03

Top three means total

11.48

9.71

10.52

10.80

The results were further analysed based on the respondents’ profiles to identify whether or not the selected commercials had different levels of influences on the respondents with different demographic profiles. The significant differences were identified among different age groups. The variables with significant differences are summarised in Table 7. For example, there is a significantly higher level of ‘Warmth’ elicited by Baci's commercial among those aged 20–24. British Airways elicited a significantly higher level of feeling of ‘Relaxation’ among those aged 45+ than any other age groups.
Table 7

Significant differences in emotion elicited by age groups

Emotions

Means: Pair-sample t-test and ANOVA 1=Emotion has not been elicited at all; 5=Emotion has been elicited very strongly

Age groups

20–24

25–34

35–44

45+

A1

 Warmth

4.41

4.07

3.33

4.09

 Sex/Eroticism

1.63

2.13

1.80

2.95

 Relaxation

2.11

2.45

2.33

3.32

A2

 Sex/Eroticism

0.56

0.73

0.40

1.86

 Interest/Curiosity

1.93

2.18

2.40

3.23

 Relaxation

2.93

2.75

2.80

4.09

A3

 Humour

3.41

3.71

4.07

3.05

 Trust

1.89

1.89

2.93

1.18

A4

 Interest/Curiosity

3.26

2.71

2.87

3.73

 Admiration

4.30

3.29

3.73

4.41

P<0.01.

Respondents’ attitudes towards the advertisement

Generally speaking, there are positive attitudes shown towards Baci, British Airways, Nescafé and Nike (mean>3). Of the four selected commercials, Baci's scored the highest (4.25) when respondents were asked to self-assess their overall negative or positive attitudes towards the commercials, followed by Nike (3.90). Moreover, Baci's commercial was rated the most likeable commercial, with a mean of 4.19 (Table 8).
Table 8

Attitudes towards the selected commercials

Attitudes

Means: Pair-sample t-test 1=Very negative; 5=Very positive

 

Advert 1 (A1)

Advert 2 (A2)

Advert 3 (A3)

Advert 4 (A4)

Boring/Interesting

3.88

2.76

3.71

3.80

Bad/Good

3.89

3.02

3.67

3.93

Dislikeable/Likeable

4.19

2.90

3.81

3.83

Not funny/Funny

2.31

1.77

3.62

1.98

Unpleasant/Pleasant

4.13

3.44

3.67

3.62

Uninformative/Informative

2.00

2.09

2.27

2.09

Not entertaining/Entertaining

3.98

2.92

3.89

3.93

I feel negative/positive towards the commercial

4.25

3.34

3.74

3.90

The attitudes were further analysed according to the respondents’ demographic profiles. Women rated Nike's commercial significantly higher than men. Baci's commercials were rated higher among secretaries, clerks and office workers than respondents from other occupations. Those who were married perceived Baci's as more entertaining than any other groups.

Again, significant differences in attitudes towards the commercials were observed among respondents belonging to different age groups (See Table 9). Nescafé (A2) had a similar influence on different age groups, which generated similar attitudes after viewing. The commercials generated significantly different attitudes with respect to different variables, and are summarised in Table 9. British Airways’ commercial appealed significantly more to the older audience than the young.
Table 9

Significant differences in attitudes towards selected commercials

Emotions

Means: Pair-sample t-test and ANOVA 1=Very negative; 5=Very positive

Age groups

20–24

25–34

35–44

45+

A1

 Not entertaining/Entertaining

3.96

3.75

3.93

4.59

A2

 Boring/Interesting

2.48

2.52

2.60

3.82

 Bad/Good

2.85

2.86

2.93

3.68

 Dislikeable/Likeable

2.63

2.82

2.47

3.73

 Not entertaining/Entertaining

2.48

2.73

3.13

3.77

 I feel negative/Positive towards the ad

3.11

3.23

3.13

4.05

A4

 Interest/Curiosity

4.19

3.46

3.53

4.36

 Bad/Good

4.22

3.61

3.80

4.50

 Unpleasant/Pleasant

4.11

3.45

3.87

4.45

 Uninformative/Informative

2.07

1.82

2.07

2.82

 Not entertaining/Entertaining

4.44

3.45

4.00

4.50

 I feel negative/Positive towards the ad

4.11

3.57

3.87

4.50

P<0.01.

Understanding and memorability of the commercials

The respondents were asked to self-assess their understanding and memorability of the selected commercials. Respondents attached higher understanding to Baci's commercial than the other three (see Table 10). There was no significant difference in terms of the level of understanding of the commercials among different gender, age groups, family status and occupations, nor in the state of feelings before responding to the questionnaires. Although respondents indicated that they would remember Baci's commercial better than others, none of the commercials scored higher than 3 on the mean, which means that none of the commercials used in this study won a strong tendency to be remembered.
Table 10

Understanding and memorability of the commercials

 

Means: Pair-sample t-test

 

Advert 1 (A1)

Advert 2 (A2)

Advert 3 (A3)

Advert 4 (A4)

Understanding

3.43

2.77

3.17

2.87

5=Understood completely; 1=Do not understand at all

Memorability

2.77

1.39

2.27

2.15

5=Very memorable; 1=Not memorable at all

Correlation was used to examine whether there was a relationship between emotions and the memorability of the advertisements. The range of emotions that showed a significant level of correlation with memorability are (1) Baci – ‘Love’; (2) British Airways – ‘Warmth’, ‘Sex/Eroticism’, ‘Passion’, ‘Longing/Desire’, ‘Enjoyment/Amusement’, ‘Happiness’, ‘Surprise’, ‘Love’, ‘Trust’ and ‘Relaxation’; (3) Nescafé – ‘Admiration’, ‘Surprise’ and ‘Hope’; and (4) Nike – ‘Passion’, ‘Interest/Curiosity’, ‘Enjoyment/Amusement’, ‘Admiration’ and ‘Jealousy’. In other words, the findings showed a significant positive correlation between emotions and memorability with respect to some dimensions of emotions but not others.

Similar statistics were applied to identify whether or not there is a correlation between understanding of the commercial and attitudes. The findings showed that the better the advertisements were understood, the more positive the respondents’ attitudes were towards the commercial. The commercials that were perceived to be better, more likeable, more pleasant and more entertaining were better understood.

CONCLUSIONS

This study signifies the methodological design of the experimentation in examining the commercials’ impact on respondents’ emotions and attitudes based on a web survey, and was facilitated by a video sharing website in presenting selected TV commercials. The experiment design using a web survey has been widely used in commercial marketing research practice, but not in academic research. This study attempts to show the viability of experimentation design using a new research medium. However, it is worth noting that this type of research is likely to be skewed towards heavy Internet users who are familiar with Internet-sharing websites, and are comfortable or enjoy staying online for an extended period of time. For example, this experiment took an average of 40 min to complete, and among the samples, there are higher proportions of participants who were single, aged between 25 and 34, and were students and professionals (see Table 5).

The result of this study shows that different levels of emotions were elicited by different advertisements. In this study, Baci's commercial was most effective in evoking positive emotional responses, such as warmth, longing/desire and love. It also generated a relatively higher level of positive attitudes to the commercial. Older audiences had more positive attitudes towards the British Airways’ commercial than the younger groups, and it is suggested here that this may be consistent with the interests and purchasing power of the respective groups. In addition, the result shows that there is a positive correlation between the attitudes towards the advertisement and the memorability. Similarly, the analysis also indicated that the higher the understanding of the advertisement, the higher the memorability. However, none of the commercials used in this study scored higher than the mid-point on the scale. This reflects a diminishing effect in modern society owing to an overload of media exposure. The finding of this study shows that age is the most important demographic variable, in that it presents a significant differentiation factor in predicting the differences in interpretation and perception of the commercial. The levels of a range of emotions elicited by different commercials are rated differently among different age groups. The older audiences are significantly different from the young.

The weakness of this study was that the time required for completing the questionnaire was longer than what one would normally expect. As a result, 30 responses were incomplete and were removed from the analysis. For future study, the design can be simplified to enable the response time to be shortened.

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan Ltd 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Li-Wei Mai
    • 1
  • Georgia Schoeller
  1. 1.Westminster Business School, University of WestminsterLondonUK