New Research: Understanding Consumer Behaviors During TV Commercial Breaks

5
at
5
minutes
Technical Level
February 10, 2022
Frank Maguire
VP, Insights & Strategy
New research from Sharethrough highlights what is causing such low consumer attention to TV ads to help understand how the connected TV space can adapt.

79% of TV watchers usually take out their phone or another device during commercial breaks. That was one of the surprising stats that came out of our research study on video watching behaviors in June of 2021. In our commitment to study human behaviors and cognition in order to improve advertising performance through adtech advancements, we knew we needed to dig deeper into this attention problem. So we conducted a new study to understand what is causing such low attention to TV commercials so we can begin to piece together how adtech can potentially improve the user experience, especially now while the connected TV (CTV) space is still in its infancy stage.

In December of 2021, we surveyed 1,000 North Americans over the age of 16 and asked them a series of questions related to their TV viewing habits, preferences and experiences. The results provide interesting insights into attention, muting behaviors, ad preferences and shoppable TV behaviors.

The Attention Problem with TV Commercials

Most TV Watchers Don’t Actively Pay Attention to Ads

According to the results, 66% of respondents said they don’t actively watch TV ads. When asked the main reason they do not watch ads, 64% said they grab their phone during commercial breaks, 21% switch to another channel and 15% leave the room or do something else. However, out of the 34% that usually do watch TV ads, 28% typically watch it on mute, which implies 76% of people are not actively watching TV ads instead of the 66% self-declared.

Of all the demographic signals, gender displayed the widest differences in answers. Women are both 44% less likely to watch TV commercials than men (27% vs 39%) and 50% more likely to grab their phone during commercial breaks than men (51% v 35%).

Women are 50% more likely to grab their phone during TV commercials.

Muting Behaviors

Our previous study also opened our eyes to how often people keep their phone and computer on mute even while videos play, with 75% keeping their mobile device on mute and up to 62% of some age groups keeping their computer on mute. For this study, we focused specifically on muting behavior during TV commercial breaks and 36% overall said they usually mute their TV during commercial breaks. We once again saw a big difference between men and women, with men being 33% more likely to mute than women (40% vs 30%).

When asked the main reason why they mute their TV, 46% said they do it because they find TV commercials too loud or annoying, 29% so they can hear their other devices and 26% so they can have a conversation.

1 out of 3 people mute their TVs during commercial breaks. 55% of them do it to use another device or have a conversation.

Why Don’t People Pay Attention to TV Ads?

To dig deeper into what is driving people not to pay attention to TV ads, we asked respondents what the main reason is that they don’t pay full attention to commercials. The top response came from 39% who find TV ads irrelevant most of the time and they don't bring value to them. 71% of those respondents said they would pay more attention if TV ads were better targeted to their interests. 

6 out of 10 consumers have purchased a product using their phone, tablet or laptop right after watching an ad for it on TV.

Furthermore, 31% find TV ads too repetitive and 82% of them said they would pay greater attention if ads were more diversified in terms of products and services instead of the same brands and products they see over and over again. 

Finally, 31% feel there are too many ads, with 64% of them saying there shouldn’t be more than 2 during a commercial break.

Taken all together, 73% of people would pay more attention to the ads if they were better targeted to their interest, more diversified and had fewer ads per commercial break.

The Value Exchange Solution: Data Sharing and Shoppable TV 

Most People Would Share Data for Fewer Ads

While few networks are ready to decrease the number of ads they deliver, there could be an opportunity to decrease ad loads while still collecting valuable targeting data. 85% of respondents indicated that they would be willing to share personal information to watch a TV show with no commercials. 

They were able to select multiple answers on what they would be willing to share and 50% said they would be open to sharing their age, gender and email address, 45% said they would provide information on the products and services they are in the market for, 29% would provide their phone number and household income and 25% would share their home address.

The Future Looks Promising for Shoppable TV 

As much as people indicate they don’t usually watch TV commercials, the silver lining is that they do pay attention to ads that are relevant to them. This was especially clear considering 60% of respondents said they have purchased a product on their phone, computer or tablet after seeing an ad for it on TV and 58% also responded they would use their TV remote to buy a product or receive a coupon for a product they liked in a commercial.

Shoppable TV has a bright future! 58% of consumers said they would use their TV remote to buy a product or get a coupon for a product they liked in a commercial.

Implications for the Connected TV Space

Understanding these consumer behaviors is the first step towards figuring out how we can improve the consumer experience and, therefore, improve advertiser performance. In the next article we will break down the implications of this research and 4 ways CTV is uniquely suited to improve attention.

New research from Sharethrough highlights what is causing such low consumer attention to TV ads to help understand how the connected TV space can adapt.

79% of TV watchers usually take out their phone or another device during commercial breaks. That was one of the surprising stats that came out of our research study on video watching behaviors in June of 2021. In our commitment to study human behaviors and cognition in order to improve advertising performance through adtech advancements, we knew we needed to dig deeper into this attention problem. So we conducted a new study to understand what is causing such low attention to TV commercials so we can begin to piece together how adtech can potentially improve the user experience, especially now while the connected TV (CTV) space is still in its infancy stage.

In December of 2021, we surveyed 1,000 North Americans over the age of 16 and asked them a series of questions related to their TV viewing habits, preferences and experiences. The results provide interesting insights into attention, muting behaviors, ad preferences and shoppable TV behaviors.

The Attention Problem with TV Commercials

Most TV Watchers Don’t Actively Pay Attention to Ads

According to the results, 66% of respondents said they don’t actively watch TV ads. When asked the main reason they do not watch ads, 64% said they grab their phone during commercial breaks, 21% switch to another channel and 15% leave the room or do something else. However, out of the 34% that usually do watch TV ads, 28% typically watch it on mute, which implies 76% of people are not actively watching TV ads instead of the 66% self-declared.

Of all the demographic signals, gender displayed the widest differences in answers. Women are both 44% less likely to watch TV commercials than men (27% vs 39%) and 50% more likely to grab their phone during commercial breaks than men (51% v 35%).

Women are 50% more likely to grab their phone during TV commercials.

Muting Behaviors

Our previous study also opened our eyes to how often people keep their phone and computer on mute even while videos play, with 75% keeping their mobile device on mute and up to 62% of some age groups keeping their computer on mute. For this study, we focused specifically on muting behavior during TV commercial breaks and 36% overall said they usually mute their TV during commercial breaks. We once again saw a big difference between men and women, with men being 33% more likely to mute than women (40% vs 30%).

When asked the main reason why they mute their TV, 46% said they do it because they find TV commercials too loud or annoying, 29% so they can hear their other devices and 26% so they can have a conversation.

1 out of 3 people mute their TVs during commercial breaks. 55% of them do it to use another device or have a conversation.

Why Don’t People Pay Attention to TV Ads?

To dig deeper into what is driving people not to pay attention to TV ads, we asked respondents what the main reason is that they don’t pay full attention to commercials. The top response came from 39% who find TV ads irrelevant most of the time and they don't bring value to them. 71% of those respondents said they would pay more attention if TV ads were better targeted to their interests. 

6 out of 10 consumers have purchased a product using their phone, tablet or laptop right after watching an ad for it on TV.

Furthermore, 31% find TV ads too repetitive and 82% of them said they would pay greater attention if ads were more diversified in terms of products and services instead of the same brands and products they see over and over again. 

Finally, 31% feel there are too many ads, with 64% of them saying there shouldn’t be more than 2 during a commercial break.

Taken all together, 73% of people would pay more attention to the ads if they were better targeted to their interest, more diversified and had fewer ads per commercial break.

The Value Exchange Solution: Data Sharing and Shoppable TV 

Most People Would Share Data for Fewer Ads

While few networks are ready to decrease the number of ads they deliver, there could be an opportunity to decrease ad loads while still collecting valuable targeting data. 85% of respondents indicated that they would be willing to share personal information to watch a TV show with no commercials. 

They were able to select multiple answers on what they would be willing to share and 50% said they would be open to sharing their age, gender and email address, 45% said they would provide information on the products and services they are in the market for, 29% would provide their phone number and household income and 25% would share their home address.

The Future Looks Promising for Shoppable TV 

As much as people indicate they don’t usually watch TV commercials, the silver lining is that they do pay attention to ads that are relevant to them. This was especially clear considering 60% of respondents said they have purchased a product on their phone, computer or tablet after seeing an ad for it on TV and 58% also responded they would use their TV remote to buy a product or receive a coupon for a product they liked in a commercial.

Shoppable TV has a bright future! 58% of consumers said they would use their TV remote to buy a product or get a coupon for a product they liked in a commercial.

Implications for the Connected TV Space

Understanding these consumer behaviors is the first step towards figuring out how we can improve the consumer experience and, therefore, improve advertiser performance. In the next article we will break down the implications of this research and 4 ways CTV is uniquely suited to improve attention.

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About Behind Headlines: 180 Seconds in Ad Tech—

Behind Headlines: 180 Seconds in Ad Tech is a short 3-minute podcast exploring the news in the digital advertising industry. Ad tech is a fast-growing industry with many updates happening daily. As it can be hard for most to keep up with the latest news, the Sharethrough team wanted to create an audio series compiling notable mentions each week.

New research from Sharethrough highlights what is causing such low consumer attention to TV ads to help understand how the connected TV space can adapt.

79% of TV watchers usually take out their phone or another device during commercial breaks. That was one of the surprising stats that came out of our research study on video watching behaviors in June of 2021. In our commitment to study human behaviors and cognition in order to improve advertising performance through adtech advancements, we knew we needed to dig deeper into this attention problem. So we conducted a new study to understand what is causing such low attention to TV commercials so we can begin to piece together how adtech can potentially improve the user experience, especially now while the connected TV (CTV) space is still in its infancy stage.

In December of 2021, we surveyed 1,000 North Americans over the age of 16 and asked them a series of questions related to their TV viewing habits, preferences and experiences. The results provide interesting insights into attention, muting behaviors, ad preferences and shoppable TV behaviors.

The Attention Problem with TV Commercials

Most TV Watchers Don’t Actively Pay Attention to Ads

According to the results, 66% of respondents said they don’t actively watch TV ads. When asked the main reason they do not watch ads, 64% said they grab their phone during commercial breaks, 21% switch to another channel and 15% leave the room or do something else. However, out of the 34% that usually do watch TV ads, 28% typically watch it on mute, which implies 76% of people are not actively watching TV ads instead of the 66% self-declared.

Of all the demographic signals, gender displayed the widest differences in answers. Women are both 44% less likely to watch TV commercials than men (27% vs 39%) and 50% more likely to grab their phone during commercial breaks than men (51% v 35%).

Women are 50% more likely to grab their phone during TV commercials.

Muting Behaviors

Our previous study also opened our eyes to how often people keep their phone and computer on mute even while videos play, with 75% keeping their mobile device on mute and up to 62% of some age groups keeping their computer on mute. For this study, we focused specifically on muting behavior during TV commercial breaks and 36% overall said they usually mute their TV during commercial breaks. We once again saw a big difference between men and women, with men being 33% more likely to mute than women (40% vs 30%).

When asked the main reason why they mute their TV, 46% said they do it because they find TV commercials too loud or annoying, 29% so they can hear their other devices and 26% so they can have a conversation.

1 out of 3 people mute their TVs during commercial breaks. 55% of them do it to use another device or have a conversation.

Why Don’t People Pay Attention to TV Ads?

To dig deeper into what is driving people not to pay attention to TV ads, we asked respondents what the main reason is that they don’t pay full attention to commercials. The top response came from 39% who find TV ads irrelevant most of the time and they don't bring value to them. 71% of those respondents said they would pay more attention if TV ads were better targeted to their interests. 

6 out of 10 consumers have purchased a product using their phone, tablet or laptop right after watching an ad for it on TV.

Furthermore, 31% find TV ads too repetitive and 82% of them said they would pay greater attention if ads were more diversified in terms of products and services instead of the same brands and products they see over and over again. 

Finally, 31% feel there are too many ads, with 64% of them saying there shouldn’t be more than 2 during a commercial break.

Taken all together, 73% of people would pay more attention to the ads if they were better targeted to their interest, more diversified and had fewer ads per commercial break.

The Value Exchange Solution: Data Sharing and Shoppable TV 

Most People Would Share Data for Fewer Ads

While few networks are ready to decrease the number of ads they deliver, there could be an opportunity to decrease ad loads while still collecting valuable targeting data. 85% of respondents indicated that they would be willing to share personal information to watch a TV show with no commercials. 

They were able to select multiple answers on what they would be willing to share and 50% said they would be open to sharing their age, gender and email address, 45% said they would provide information on the products and services they are in the market for, 29% would provide their phone number and household income and 25% would share their home address.

The Future Looks Promising for Shoppable TV 

As much as people indicate they don’t usually watch TV commercials, the silver lining is that they do pay attention to ads that are relevant to them. This was especially clear considering 60% of respondents said they have purchased a product on their phone, computer or tablet after seeing an ad for it on TV and 58% also responded they would use their TV remote to buy a product or receive a coupon for a product they liked in a commercial.

Shoppable TV has a bright future! 58% of consumers said they would use their TV remote to buy a product or get a coupon for a product they liked in a commercial.

Implications for the Connected TV Space

Understanding these consumer behaviors is the first step towards figuring out how we can improve the consumer experience and, therefore, improve advertiser performance. In the next article we will break down the implications of this research and 4 ways CTV is uniquely suited to improve attention.

About Calibrate—

Founded in 2015, Calibrate is a yearly conference for new engineering managers hosted by seasoned engineering managers. The experience level of the speakers ranges from newcomers all the way through senior engineering leaders with over twenty years of experience in the field. Each speaker is greatly concerned about the craft of engineering management. Organized and hosted by Sharethrough, it was conducted yearly in September, from 2015-2019 in San Francisco, California.

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Frank Maguire
VP, Insights & Strategy

About the Author

Frank has spent over a decade at Sharethrough conducting research studies to better understand how humans respond to advertising and sharing strategies, insights and best practices that help brands and agencies adapt their unique advertising challenges to ever-evolving media consumption behaviors. He is a digital advertising industry veteran, beginning his career working for clients including Nestle, Pfizer and Wyndham on the agency side and then opening up and growing Sharethrough's East Coast headquarters in NYC.

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