February 22, 2007
Not Just "Merely Entertained": Information Gathering and Ad Recall for The Weather Channel

Some interesting news this week comes from The Weather Channel, who are claiming that they have higher advertising recall than other networks, based on a study that found higher ad recall for the network, when compared to Home and Garden Television and the USA Network.

Jon Lafayette with TelevisionWeek summarizes the take of the Weather Channel's VP of national ad sales, Liz Janneman, as being that "they're also paying attention because they've tuned in to get specific information, rather than be merely entertained."

Interesting point about push versus pull, in that people often go to the Weather Channel to specifically watch for a set period of time in trying to gather specific information. This says something about the activeness of the viewer (although it does discount all of those people I know who leave their TV set on the Weather Channel for no apparent reason, like my dad).

According to the study, by ASI through a commission from media buyer OMD, ads on the Weather Channel had a 19 percent recall, compared to 14 percent for both USA and HGTV.

Part of that has also been attributed to the fact that Weather Channel has more commercial breaks in the hour that are much shorter in duration, meaning it is not as easy to skip the ads.

Also interesting is that,when the consumers not only watched the cable channel but also viewed the Web site and saw the same ads, ad recall rose to 23 percent for the Weather Channel, with a similar 4 percent gain for USA and a 3 percent gain for HGTV.

But what about this idea of ad recall being higher when in an information-seeking mode rather than wanting to be "merely entertained." There's something condescending in the wording, discounting other research that finds that the more actively involved in a program people are, the more likely they are to recall advertisements, particularly product placements or ads that are somehow linked with the show.

I've argued plenty of times that the most serialized show should exploit these more qualitative types of understandings of audience recall, and this study has set forth some hypotheses--that shorter ad breaks mean more recall, that people actively involved in searching for information are more likely to be paying attention to what's on the screen, etc.

I don't think that what sets TWC apart from HGTV and USA is merely that it's informational (to use that word again) but rather something to do with active versus passive viewing in general, and certainly watching for something specific on The Weather Channel leads to more active engagement, no reason for time shifting, etc.

I've written before about TWC's minute-by-minute ratings to help measure commercial viewing, which makes more sense in their lack of block scheduling in programming as compared to most other networks.