Study: People Share Room With TV Ads

They make it sound like it's a good news.

Center for Research Excellence released new findings from their massive and very expensive ($3.5M) ethnographic study of media consumption behavior. The researchers observed and recorded behaviors of 376 adults in four markets for the average period of 33 hours each or roughly two full waking days (or "three-quarters of a million minutes" altogether, as they prefer to put it.)  It looks like they used methodology and tools developed by Ball State Uni's Center for Media Design for its Middletown Media Study, which I've been following here closely since 2006.

The press release is pretty celebratory throughout, starting with the headline "Most TV Viewers Do Not Leave the Room or Even Change Channels During Commercial Breaks."

The study was funded by Nielsen.

A supposedly sympathetic media executive is quoted as wondering rhetorically: "Do viewers actually pay attention during commercial breaks?"

Great question. Let's see what we can milk from the data highlights since the press release never answers it directly.

- 20% change rooms during a commercial break
- 86% of viewers remain with live TV during commercials (that is, don't change channels)
- Multi-tasking was found to accompany about 45% of all media use. That's 45% of the 80% who stay in the room. "Multitasking" here does not include concurrent usage of other media, as seen on the graph below (source: pdf).  And of them, 86% stay on the same channel.

In other words, about 38 people out of 100 (that is, 100 x 0.80 x 0.86 x 0.55 - does the math check out?) are in the same room and on the same channel as TV commercials and aren't working, eating, or attending to personal or religious needs.

Now, to fill in the gap on concurrent media exposure.  In Ball State's original media study in 2006, which was smaller in scope but similar in methodology, researchers found out that TV is an uncontested (single-exposure) medium during 71.5% percent of total minutes it is on (pdf).  (According to a different, newer Three Screen report, 59% of people use TV and Internet at the same time at least once a month.)

So, in the end, we probably have a whopping 20% of the people sitting in front of commercials not doing anything else, maybe paying attention. Maybe.

- via Ad Contrarian, who, too, thinks the news is good.


  1. Some commercials make me wonder what they are selling, sometime I wonder if it's my age, but when my granddaughter and daughter ask what was that about: I know they totally missed the selling point

  2. nicely calculated, but does it really matter that much?
    I mean, just because I'm eating, does it mean the ads don't get any of my attention? or even if I'm on the phone or doing something else. some ads might get through my multitasking, won't they?
    all I'm trying to say is to rely on any such "hard data" and numbers as definite answers is wrong. no matter how high or low the numbers actually are.

  3. I doubt that people have any interest in these commercials....what irks me is having to be a bachelor and watch baby napkins ads or having to be a male and watch sanitary pads apps.

  4. @Radovan: You are right. My problem with the report was that it focused on the wrong thing, and even that got misrepresented.


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