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Research Study Shows TV Viewers Really Do Watch Commercials

2 minute read | May 2010

It’s always been conventional wisdom that people watching TV don’t watch commercials. They flip channels, get something to eat or otherwise ignore the ads.  In fact, it turns out the conventional wisdom is all wrong: TV advertising and program promotions reach 85% of adults daily, and viewers typically see 26 advertising or promotional breaks —  accounting for 73 minutes — each day.

The Video Consumer Mapping (VCM) study sponsored by the Council for Research Excellence (CRE) also found that the frequency of channel-changing and moving rooms is similar before, during and after commercial breaks.  Only 14% of viewers change channels during the break, compared to 11% just before commercials and 13% just after.  Likewise, room changing patterns were similar: 20% of viewers change rooms during commercials, compared to 19% before and 21% after.

Many TV viewers are simultaneously doing other things, but “multi-tasking” behavior patterns don’t change during commercial breaks. Multi-tasking was found to accompany 45% of all media use, with “care for another” and “meal preparation” being the two top activities.  Fully 55% of viewers were found to be solely engaged with media.

“When commercials come on, people stay with the TV.  They only go to the kitchen if they’re hungry, and they don’t fight over the remote,” said Laura Cowan, Vice President and Media Director of RJC Advertising and Chairperson of the CRE’s Media Consumption & Engagement Committee.  “For years, media professionals have been wrestling with the question of whether viewers actually pay attention to commercial breaks.  This new data, the result of actually embedding observers with a statistically significant number of TV viewers, is a major development in terms of learning what people watch and how they watch it.”

The VCM study was the first ever to involve in-person, computer-assisted observation of the media consumption habits of 376 adults and generated data covering more than three-quarters of a million minutes, or a total of 752 observed days.

Read the full Video Consumer Mapping study press release from the Council for Research Excellence.

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