Latest Screen Life study from Thinkbox offers new insights for TV advertisers

London, 8 October 2014: Wide-ranging new research from Thinkbox has examined how people are watching TV now and what this means to advertisers.

‘Screen Life: TV advertising everywhere’, launched today at BAFTA in London, was carried out for Thinkbox by Craft Strategy. It involved an innovative mixture of qualitative and quantitative research techniques.

The research found that TV plays a profound role within people’s homes and within the living room in particular, playing a vital role in unifying households and being a part of numerous day-to-day rituals. 98% of TV viewing in the UK takes place on a TV set, with 86% on a TV set in the living room*. The study found that two-thirds of the UK (63%) thinks TV is central to making the living room a special place in the home.

Other key findings from ‘Screen Life: TV advertising everywhere’ include:

  • Viewers  pay more attention to advertising than they think
  • Multi-screening in the ad break does not diminish explicit ad recall
  • The living room is the centre of viewing, but TV – and its advertising – has colonised new places
  • The longer you watch TV, the better your explicit ad recall
  • On demand TV gets people talking about advertising
  • Young people are most likely to discuss TV advertising
  • Social TV campaigns are more welcome in the evening
  • Multi-screening during ad breaks is common
  • Levels of ad break multi-screening differ by genre
  • Audio in ads is a powerful way to grab attention

Viewers pay more attention to advertising than they think

During the qualitative part of the research participants denied remembering many ads, however in the quantitative mobile diary study, which asked participants to log their viewing behaviour at 15 minute intervals, the research showed that the average viewer could recall 1.9 ads.

(N.B. Explicit recall is only one measure of the impact of TV advertising as TV has powerful effects on the implicit mind and people’s long-term memory which cannot be picked up in explicit recall studies.)

Multi-screening in ad breaks does not affect ad recall 

People who multi-screened during TV ad breaks in the research were able to explicitly recall slightly just as many ads as the average viewer. Multi-screeners could recall 2 ads from the previous 15 minutes of viewing compared to the 1.9 average).

The living room is the centre of viewing...but TV has colonised the home

Although the living room is the centre of people’s viewing, ‘Screen Life: TV advertising everywhere’ uncovered where TV is being watched beyond the living room. The study looked at where around the house people now watch TV on mobile screens such as tablets, smartphones and laptops: 56% of the UK have watched TV on screens other than the TV set while in the living room; 46% in the bedroom; 24% in their study or home office; 19% in the kitchen; 12% in the garden; and 9% in the bathroom or toilet.

TV is now everywhere

And, as well as all corners of the home, TV is also with us wherever we go. The study found that 37% of people in the UK have watched TV on mobile screens when out and about: 17% on their tablet, laptop or smartphone when they are at someone else’s house; 13% at work; 12% elsewhere out of home (e.g. waiting for a bus); 10% while travelling on business; 13% in a public building; 16% while on public transport; and 12% while travelling in a car.

The longer you watch, the better your ad recall

The study found that the longer people in the sample watched TV, the more likely they were to explicitly recall a TV ad from the last 15 minutes. 58% of people who watched for 15-30 minutes could recall one or more ads (8% could recall 5 or more); for those who watched for 2 hours or longer, this increased to 66% who could recall one or more ads (17% could recall 5 or more).

On demand gets people talking about advertising

The study found that, although viewers in the sample were most likely to recall talking about TV advertising during live viewing (13%), TVOD was not far behind at inspiring ad-related conversations, with 10% claiming via their mobile diaries to have discussed TV ads in the last 15 minutes when they were watching TV on-demand.

Young people are most likely to discuss TV advertising

On average 12% of the sample claimed to have talked about a TV ad. For 16-34s this was 16%.

Social campaigns are more welcome in the evening

‘TV advertising everywhere’ also examined attitudes towards social elements in TV advertising campaigns. It found that viewers believe Facebook and Twitter to be the best fit with social TV campaigns – with 31% and 27% respectively believing the platforms to be a good fit with social TV.

It also found that viewers are more or less welcoming of social elements in TV campaigns at different times in the day. 55% believed early evening was a good time for a social TV campaign compared with only 16% for the morning, 27% for the afternoon and 35% for late evening/night.

Multi-screening during ad breaks is common

During peaktime viewing, 74% of the study’s mobile diary sample claimed to have picked up another device during TV ad breaks. And there was very little difference between age groups, social demographics or gender.

And multi-screening during the ad breaks was not only confined to live viewing, as might be expected. In fact 79% of the sample claimed to have multi-screened during the ads around on demand content at some point and 72% claimed to have done so during the ads featured around recorded TV content.

Ad break multi-screening differs by genre

Ad break multi-screening is most likely to occur around comedy shows (82% picked up another device), entertainment (81%), soaps (77%) and documentaries (76%).

Audio in ads is crucial for grabbing attention

The study found that audio within TV advertising is a powerful way of grabbing people’s attention. The video ethnography found that audio was responsible for more attention upshifts (where viewers who had looked away from the TV screen were drawn back to watch) than any other factor with music or other sounds during ads were responsible for 44% of attention uplifts identified.

Neil Mortensen, Research and Planning Director at Thinkbox: “This work will continue to help advertisers optimise their TV campaigns as TV goes on the move. It has been fascinating to understand how technology is improving the quality and convenience for viewers and how advertising is benefitting from the relationship.”

The study employed a number of innovative research techniques, including video ethnography (in and out of the home) using both fixed in-home cameras and EyeCams, which were worn by the participants to capture audio-visual footage of what they were watching wherever they were. Participants in the qualitative research were all more technologically advanced viewers than average. The quantitative data was collected via mobile viewing diaries, respondent participation workshops and a nationally representative online survey of 2,023 people in the UK.


*Figures according to data from the Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB) and the UK TV broadcasters for January-June 2014

Press contact:

  • Simon Tunstill | Head of Communications, Thinkbox | [email protected] | 020 7630 2326

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