How targeting people at relevant times
helps turbocharge ad effectiveness

Introduction

This study investigates through the lens of radio advertising how speaking to people at relevant moments can enhance advertising engagement and memorability, and explores how these effects can be amplified through targeting and creative strategies.

With reference to new proprietary research conducted by Neuro-Insight and existing industry studies, it seeks to provide a new dimension to understanding the effects of context on advertising.

Key Take-outs

Targeting people at relevant times helps turbo charge ad effectiveness

  1. 1 People feel twice as happy when listening to radio compared to when not consuming any media. This mood-boosting effect of radio editorial is proven to enhance engagement with advertising.
  2. 2 Listeners are able to absorb the detail of radio ads when they are participating in tasks or activities as effectively as when engaged in other audio listening or TV viewing experiences.
  3. 3 Advertising that directly relates to tasks or activities that listeners are participating in builds on these editorial effects and turbocharges them:
    • engagement with advertising rises by 23% as a result of the ads being more personally relevant
    • in parallel, long-term memory encoding of details in the advertising increases by 22% (rising to 28% at nal branding moments)
    • compared to a range of other TV and radio campaigns, the test ads rose from 53rd to 94th percentile when heard in a relevant context (i.e. performing better than 94% of all other ads measured).
  4. 4 These effects of speaking to people at relevant times endure beyond the moment to help build brand salience:
    • spontaneous advertising recall increases by 56%
    • prompted advertising recall improves by 33%.

Implications for Advertisers

  1. 1 For advertisers, radio represents a unique and powerful opportunity to bolster advertising effects significantly – turning average campaigns into star performers - by speaking to people at pertinent times, and at scale.
  2. 2 Playing out in real time and not demanding primary visual attention, audio advertising is unique in that it can be heard as intended when people are doing other things.
  3. 3 On nine out of ten occasions listeners are participating in other activities while listening to radio, providing advertisers with a multitude of opportunities to engage mass audiences at relevant moments.
  4. 4 Ads that are creatively tailored to the moment deliver the largest effects - top performers achieved a 70% increase in engagement and 40% increase in memory encoding.


FINDINGS IN DETAIL

How targeting people at relevant times
helps turbocharge ad effectiveness

1. Advertising that directly relates to tasks or activities that listeners are participating in builds on editorial effects and boosts them significantly

Situationally relevant ads heard in relevant and non-relevant contexts
Average levels of brain response across all six ads

In the background to this study we reviewed how radio’s editorial effect helps listeners feel happier, making them more receptive to the advertising they hear. How does listener context build on this?

When heard in a relevant context the six situationally relevant ads (i.e. specifically referencing the task being carried out) elicited significantly higher levels of engagement and left brain memory encoding than when heard in the control environment. Other metrics were similar across both contexts.

On average, reaching people at relevant times boosts engagement by 23% and memory encoding by 22%. For this set of ads, memory encoding is 28% higher around final branding moments specifically, suggesting that hearing ads in a relevant context has a strong impact on branding effectiveness.

This makes sense. Because the ads refer to the task or activity that people are participating in they become more personally relevant to them in the moment. This is turn drives a higher memory response to the detail of the ads.

The remainder of this study sets out to understand these engagement and memory effects of situationally relevant ads in more depth.

2. Listener context effects turbocharge advertising performance

Percentile performance of test brand ads in relation to other radio and TV campaigns

A percentile is a measure used in statistics to indicate the value below which a given percentage of observations in a group of observations falls. For example, the 20th percentile is the value below which 20% of the observations may be found.

When benchmarked against a range of 400 recent TV and radio campaigns measured by Neuro- Insight, the average memory encoding performance of our “situational” test ads heard in a non- relevant context ranked in the 53rd percentile (i.e. performed better than 53% of all other ads measured).

This “average” performance is important because it debunks a perceived weakness of radio i.e. that people are doing other things and therefore unable to listen to ads. All of the ads in our test were heard when people had been asked to focus their attention on a specific task - the radio was just playing in the background and at no point was it mentioned when people were briefed on the task ahead. This data proves categorically that people can absorb the detail of a radio ad when they are engaged in other tasks or activities at the same time.

More importantly, when heard in a relevant context the average memory encoding performance of “situational” test ads rose from 53rd percentile to 94th percentile (i.e. performing better than 94% of all other ads measured).

This suggests that getting ads heard in a relevant context can turn average performers into star turns.

3. The effects of speaking to people at relevant times endure beyond the moment to help build brand salience

Recall of situationally relevant ads
Averaged across all 6 ads

The higher engagement and memory encoding enjoyed by situationally relevant ads heard in context is reflected in higher levels of conscious recall, especially at an unprompted level. This suggests that speaking to people at relevant times can impact beyond the moment to help brands spring to mind more easily.

This links with wider marketing theory. In How Brands Grow, Byron Sharp advocates that speaking to people across a range of locations and occasions can play an important role in building mental availability.

4. Relevance effects vary widely between brands

Variance in engagement and memory encoding (heard during relevant task vs. non-relevant task)

As with all advertising effects, there was a wide variation in results across the six situationally relevant ads. While the average uplifts in engagement and memory encoding were 23% and 22% respectively, the lowest performing campaigns saw a decrease in these measures. However, the best performing campaign saw an uplift of 74% in engagement (3x the average) and 57% in memory encoding (2.5x the average).

This suggests that the effect of situational relevance is not universal and can be impacted by other factors.

What can we learn from these different campaigns about optimising context effects?

5. The nature of the task being undertaken can impact results

Variance in engagement and memory encoding (heard during relevant task vs. non-relevant task)

Brand F saw the worst performance of all brands in the study. This does not appear to be an issue with the quality of the ad (it benchmarked in the 49th percentile i.e. average, when heard in a non- relevant context) but more to do with the nature of the task.

The situational context for Brand F’s advertising was shopping where people were asked to think ahead and write a shopping list for the next time they go to the supermarket. This task is much more focused than all of the other tasks, requiring a higher cognitive effort. This suggests that when a task requires higher cognitive effort, relevance has less impact.

6. Ads that are creatively tailored to the moment deliver the largest effects

Variance in engagement and memory encoding (heard during relevant task vs. non-relevant task)

Concentrating on the top performers, Brands A, B, and C achieved significantly above average results – the aggregate increase in engagement was 70% and memory encoding 40%. Reviewing these, the linking factor appears to be how specifically the creative content of the ad is related to the task. The closer the explicit task reference is to the brand mention, the more likely it is that increases in memory encoding will extend to the brand.

In the case of Highways England (driving task) there is a sharp rise in left brain memory encoding when the sound of a crash is heard and response continues to rise into the final branding message.

Highways England: time line of left brain memory encoding response

In the Currys ad for the Apple Watch, the specific mention of exercise triggers particularly strong memory encoding when heard in the relevant exercise bike context, whereas responses fall in the non-relevant part of the sample. Again, memory encoding remains high for end branding when heard in the relevant context.

Currys Apple Watch: time line of left brain memory encoding response

This hypothesis that specific references to the task in the ad content is a primary driver of relevance effects is reinforced by the data relating to our category relevant ads (i.e. where brand or product is broadly relevant to the task being carried out, but less directly related). This shows no noticeable increase in either engagement or memory encoding between people hearing them during relevant tasks over non-relevant tasks.

From this we can conclude that, while still delivering strong effects, ads which are only loosely relevant to the task or activity being undertaken are less likely to benefit from immediate increases in response as a result of being heard in a relevant context. However, it is important to note that ongoing placement of advertising around specific tasks and activities may help build relevant associations for the brand in the longer term.

Strength of brain response relating to engagement and memory encoding averaged across 6x CATEGORY relevant ads (heard during relevant task vs. non-relevant task)

HOW TO BOOST AD EFFECTIVENESS BY TARGETING RELEVANT MOMENTS

The results of this study are clear: radio represents a unique and powerful opportunity to bolster advertising effects by speaking to audiences at relevant times. How can marketers optimise these effects?

1. Make explicit references in the ad creative to the task or activity you are targeting

As we have seen from the top performing campaigns measured in the study, ads that are creatively tailored to the moment deliver the largest effects. These effects are optimised if linked closely with the brand, either in terms of the brand’s role in a story and/or proximity of branding to any explicit contextual reference, helping to extend enhanced memory encoding effects to encompass the brand.

2. Bring in references to context early to get the brain involved right from the start

If the brain makes the link between an ad and a task in which it is engaged, then it is more likely to process the advertising. Establishing this link early increases the chance that more of the ad will be processed.

3. Don’t let listening context override a fundamental understanding of the target audience

While the data highlights how situational relevance can make a huge difference to advertising effects, it is important to remember that it is an addition to - rather than a replacement for - the personal relevance of the core advertising message.

4. Exploit the opportunity offered by tasks involving lower cognitive effort

The research suggests that when a task requires higher cognitive effort, the uplift effects of relevance on engagement and memory encoding are reduced. The good news is that, in general, people listen to radio to help lift their mood when engaged in everyday tasks, the majority of which are executed with the brain on autopilot (e.g. driving, housework, cooking, exercise) and present excellent opportunities for communicating relevant messages. If seeking to build relevance around higher cognitive effort tasks such as office work, consider targeting people on their way to the office or during coffee/lunch breaks.

For more detail about when people are engaged specific tasks/activities and listening to radio, check out Radiocentre’s context-based planning tool Snapshots uksnapshots.com.

For case studies of advertisers that have used radio to target audiences when engaged in specific tasks/activities, check out the Consumer Context search function in Radiocentre’s Case Study Finder casestudies.radiocentre.org.

About Radiocentre

Radiocentre is the industry body for commercial radio, working on behalf of stakeholders who represent 90% of commercial radio in terms of listening and revenue.

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