There's "news" about the "reality" of viewers and ads: It's that for engagement, lifestyle programming outperforms everything from sports to news and reality to general entertainment. A study from Scripps Networks conducted in partnership with Nielsen utilized both attitudinal and neuroscience methodologies to better understand the power of programming environments on viewers. The results were more a confirmation than a surprise to Chris Ryan, Senior Vice President of Ad Sales Research and Strategy for Scripps Networks Interactive, except perhaps the degree to which lifestyle programming drives ad engagement.
In fact, commercials running in a lifestyle programming environment scored +22% higher among all viewers across interest in products, attention to brands, intent to seek information and purchase intent. And, brand favorability across all categories measured -- auto, consumer packaged goods, food and home, home improvement, finance, restaurants, retail and travel -- was greater in Scripps Lifestyle as well. This level of engagement was confirmed through the neuroscience section of the study using biometrics. The amount of time participants were highly engaged with ads on Scripps Lifestyle was 94% greater than the average of the four other genres. "While good ad creative generates a strong emotional connection with the audience, this study suggests that ads may gain an additional benefit in the context of lifestyle programming," said Dr. Carl Marci, Chief Neuroscientist, Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience.
I had the opportunity to discuss these findings with Ryan (pictured below) to gather more insights behind the study and learn how Scripps plans to apply them.
Charlene Weisler: What was the philosophy behind this study? What were you seeking to prove?
Chris Ryan: Scripps Networks has always known there's a strong connection between our content and ads, so we wanted to prove that where an ad is placed is as important as to who sees it, maybe even more so. That concept drove the vision for this comprehensive study to prove that, as we like to say, "Environment Matters." We needed to understand and quantify whether the same ads across the largest ad categories are perceived differently in the lifestyle environment compared with other major TV genre environments. It was great to see that findings from the attitudinal research were confirmed by participants' biometric responses in a separate part of the study conducted by Nielsen's neuroscience group.
Weisler: What is it about lifestyle programs that is so engaging?
Ryan: Our audiences are the most receptive in all of television viewing because our programming provides a trusted and engaging atmosphere for families. Our suite of brands provides an optimistic environment where consumers act on the messages -- they see themselves as active participants. To our viewers, the ads are an extension of the shows they're watching. Those ads also serve up ideas and inspiration, just like our programs.
Weisler: What benefit does this engagement provide for advertisers?
Ryan: If you only buy audience, you run the chance that your ads may run in a place where people don't engage with the messaging. How people engage when they're watching ads on our networks is the key to success for Scripps and for our advertisers. In fact, brands are more likely to be seen as high quality, trusted, reliable and credible within the lifestyle programming environment. For advertisers, putting your message in front of an open and engaged audience makes too much business sense to ignore.
Weisler: Does this have a cross platform impact? On your content? On advertising?
Ryan: Because we're brands first, not just TV networks or websites, the audience experience is equally engaging across our TV, digital and print properties. Everywhere our audience shows up they are served ideas, information and inspiration within an environment that's safe and trusted.
Weisler: How are you using the results on your networks in decision making?
Ryan: Now that we have these results, we plan to work with our clients to develop better ROI metrics around engagement from findings in this study, as well as to discuss the importance of lifestyle as a media strategy, regardless of the advertising sector. It's important for clients and potential clients to understand that ads in lifestyle programming produce the highest engagement, attention and purchase intent levels among all top TV genres.
Weisler: Are some advertising categories especially successful in your environment?
Ryan: I think one of the most exciting findings of the study was that our environment didn't just perform well among traditional endemic ad categories, but across all ad categories tested. The Scripps Lifestyle environment went 8-for-8, having the largest impact on brand favorability, across all categories covering auto, home, finance, food, home improvement, restaurant, retail and travel. Those ad categories represent nearly six out of every 10 ad dollars spent on cable.
Weisler: What are your next steps?
Ryan: We want to do more work proving the importance of engagement and environment, especially in the ever-changing media landscape. While the quality of the audience is key, and as consumers migrate fluidly across their video content choices, demonstrating our benefits and effectiveness at the platform-level becomes increasingly important.
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