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The magic of advertisements rests not in time spent, but content recalled

10 March 2013 · By Suzanne Raitt

When evaluating the effectiveness of advertising in different media, quality trumps quantity of time spent, research shows.

I don’t spend most of my time with the people I love. I spend the most time at work. Followed next by sleeping.

I would not conclude, therefore, that time spent is a metaphor for what engages me, what drives me, and what I like best.

When it comes to media, many pundits imply that time spent with each medium should be related to dollars spent. The argument that follows is that newspapers get a disproportional amount of ad dollars based on time spent (vs. other media).

If this “time spent” metric is not telling in personal life, why would it apply to media? The simplistic answer is: If you like something, you spend more time with it.

Each medium is different and, therefore, provides a different experience. Television, for instance, allows the viewer to undertake other activities while using it (i.e multi-task).

So, while I spend time with television, I might be distracted and doing other things half the time or three-quarters of the time, or I might barely be concentrating on the TV at all.

Newspapers (and newspaper sites) provide content. When you are provided with the opportunity to read, it is fully engaging. Now try to compare the two time-spent experiences. They are so different. So time is not the right measure.

While my example is compelling, this argument is backed up by an expert in the field, Mike Bloxham, previously of Ball State University and now of the Media Behavior Institute. He mentions Wall Street gurus and their love for the time-spent argument. He points out (tongue firmly planted in cheek) how Wall Streeters tend to get things right.

Studies, printed in Admap Journal of Advertising Research (February 2012), summarise findings on net recall of ads in different media. In half an hour, net recall of ads is tracked.

In the U.S. study, TV scored 72%, Internet 14%, and magazines 38%. In a comparable study undertaken in Belgium, TV and Internet again were tracked and scored similarly (76% and 26%, respectively). Newspapers also were tracked and the net ad recall was 45%.

Given the number of ads that could be seen in a half-hour of newspaper reading (vs. the number that could be seen on television in the same time period), this is an impressive result.

Time spent does not correlate with time spent with what we love. And based on my memories of time spent with family and friends, recall is a factor.

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